Miami Beach calls for more police to secure South Beach

Written by Monica Correa on September 15, 2021

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Miami Beach has asked its police department to reassign more officers to South Beach as officials seek a unified approach to addressing police shortages in this high-profile and growing crime area.

At a special committee meeting last week, city manager Alina Hudak stressed the need for South Beach to improve policing strategy to mitigate crime, including moving ahead of the officer retirement curve. and by hiring more when the training and selection period permits, and by revising rest programs.

“It has become a high impact time every weekend… and every day we are not at our full capacity,” she said. “I firmly believe that whatever we need to do, in terms of our municipal services and our capabilities and our ability to change what’s going on, has to be comprehensive. “

Commissioner Steven Meiner told the meeting that residents had sounded the alarm bells by saying that they were changing their routines and lifestyles “because of the feeling of not feeling safe”.

“We can’t go out and hire 25 to 50 officers in a snap,” he added. “But I firmly believe that zero tolerance and high level police visibility is absolutely going to dent what we are seeing right now and the extent to which we can get help from any law enforcement would be of a benefit. great help. “

However, Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Martinez disagreed with a zero tolerance position.

“If you take zero tolerance you will lose the community, you will put the police in a bad position and you will not get anything,” he said, “It’s with high visibility, dialogue, strategies. quality of life., strategic application and communication between other departments of the community that you will curb violence. “

In any crime plan the city comes up with, Martinez explained, “you cannot create a lack of mistrust in the community. Whatever plan is developed, it ensures that the community is safe and that no one is isolated. “

The Miami-Dade Police Department worked with the City of Miami to develop a plan that Mr. Martinez said made nearly 1,500 arrests, removing about 700 guns from the streets, including in Miami Beach and other cities.

“Murder rates have gone down,” he said, “and it was said this summer was going to be a bloody summer. That did not happen. In Miami-Dade, there are currently 67 murders… mainly domestic violence and targeted firearms. ”

The county police department will provide an additional 10 police officers on Friday and another 10 on Sunday through December. But Mr Martinez said it was not possible to give the city 100 agents every weekend unless the city had “a real immediate emergency”.

“I asked [the Miami Beach Police Chief] and he came back with a plan that reassigns an average of 40 officers depending on the time of day and time of week on our streets, ”Ms. Hudak said. “I ask and direct our chief of police to review our capacity, to review our current situation. I have asked all of our departments to come together in a unified way and work side by side with our agents to report on our additional resources that I have requested to take the application to another level.

This includes the code compliance department, the fire department, the housing and community services department and the homeless awareness team, said Ms. Hudak, who will meet every Monday morning at her office to review the week’s results “and discuss ideas and developments in what else we can do.

“I have also asked all departments to speed up any hiring, even if we do not hire until our budgets are reviewed on October 1,” Hudak told the committee. “I don’t wait until October 1, respectfully. I asked everyone to start the recruiting process immediately. I believe I have your support.

“My staff is here today because we are concerned and want to find the best available solutions so that we can change the perception, not the effort,” said Miami Beach Police Chief Richard M. Clements. “Because the effort has always been there. What I’m asking for is a little time to be able to fill those vacancies, because we can’t train people fast enough. But we are working on it and in the last two months we have hired 21 people. We get one agent out of 10 applicants to meet our criteria.

Another issue contributing to the ongoing crime scene in South Beach is large group parties in short-term rentals, Commissioner Michael Gongora said. “While hotels have better control over their own occupancy restrictions, short-term rentals appear to be free. “

Mr Gongora presented the South Beach and Fifth Street resolution point and questioned whether the full opening of Ocean Drive to traffic was contributing to the crime problem.

“It gave pedestrians a space to congregate and businesses the opportunity to sit outside during the pandemic,” he said. “But it created a void in the streets. The police unions sent us a message saying they thought it was bad. Ambulances cannot pass if there is a serious situation.

Commissioner Mark Samuelian added that the city should also analyze South Beach’s business models. “We have noise violations, we have code violations, parking violations… [people are] smoke marijuana on public property, ”he said. “It must stop.”

He asked the city to carefully review each business when it renews its business permit.

The city should, by the end of the year, gain a better understanding of how these new approaches have worked, Hudak said.

“When people change their ways, when residents tell us over and over again that their lives have been turned upside down because of what’s going on,” Meiner said, “we have to listen. “

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