DISCUSSION ITEM REGARDING THE RECENT SHOOTINGS IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
Dennis C. Moss, Prime Sponsor
Audrey M. Edmonson, Prime Sponsor
Dorrin D. Rolle, Prime Sponsor
Board of County Commissioners
Miami-Dade Police Department Director James Loftus noted an increase from 25 year-to-date murders in 2009 to 27 in 2010. Conversely, he noted that robbery rates had declined dramatically in 2009 and that the rate for 2010 was also declining which was remarkable considering the state of the economy. Director Loftus reported an increase in contact shootings (excluding when someone was killed) from 33 year-to-date in 2009 to 37 in 2010. He noted a year-to-date increase of 9 homicide cases (150 percent) in the Northside District.
Director Loftus noted two rival gangs with offshoots who were primarily responsible for the murders, non-fatal shootings, some of the robberies, and drive-by shootings which had occurred in the Northside District. He said those two gangs had been actively warring with each other since 2007 with at least 13 members attributed to each of these gangs and at least 100 cases linked by physical evidence. He said that a non-traditional form of prosecution would be reactivated that would follow a trail related to firearms evidence. Director Loftus noted a task force had been established which included the County, the City of Miami, the FBI, the ATF, and other municipalities and he anticipated joint prosecutions with these agencies in the future.
Commissioner Souto commented on the sole citizen who saved the day by detecting and alerting authorities to a car bomb in New York City. He noted his observations that crime watch issues had become relaxed and more of a social gathering than to acquire technical skills. Commissioner Souto asked Director Loftus to provide additional training to residents on effective crime watch techniques. He also asked the Director to ensure that proper police protection and safety mechanisms were in place at the Earlington Heights Metrorail Station and all other transit corridors connected to the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC); and to explore the possibility of reinstating the tourism police patrol at the airport. Commissioner Souto noted his appreciation of Director Loftus’ willingness to listen to his concerns and to maintain an open line of communication.
Director Loftus noted Commissioner Souto presented three excellent points. He said that the Department was aware that people witness these events; were afraid to come forward; and were intimidated by the gangs. Director Loftus said that citizen participation and observation was essential to neighborhood crime watch efforts. He noted he shared Commissioner Souto’s concerns related to the MIC and was prepared to address those issues.
Commissioner Jordan questioned the total number of gangs within Miami-Dade County and not just the Northside District.
Director Loftus noted it was hard to quantify the number of gangs since they were involved in wide variety of activities. He said the 874 Identifier program was recently implemented which allowed the Department to build a database to track gangs and disseminate information amongst all municipalities. Director Loftus estimated approximately eight gangs were linked to murders with the majority located in the north end of the County.
Commissioner Jordon questioned whether any arrests had been made relative to the two active gangs in the Northside District and the prosecution success rate.
Director Loftus responded that a gang leader was arrested on a murder charge and another unfortunately left the homicide office yesterday (5/03) without being charged. He said it was important to arrest the organization’s hierarchy so others within the organization could see the value in offering information about the organization’s activities in order to avoid further sentencing. Director Loftus said it was for this reason that firearms charges were important for future prosecutions. He noted that although individual gang members had been arrested; these gangs were still operating and extremely dangerous; and much work remained to properly dismantle either one of them.
Commissioner Jordan questioned the number of shootings which involved the use of AK47 assault weapons and the position of law enforcement on their use.
Director Loftus responded that he did not have information pertaining to the number of shooting available at this time. He further noted that assault weapons were not needed; not wanted; and he would prefer if they were banned.
Commissioner Jordan asked Director Loftus to meet with her to discuss the feasibility of obtaining lobbying support from law enforcement agencies throughout the State of Florida to urge the U.S. Congress to reinstate the ban on assault weapons.
Commissioner Sosa offered her prayers to the family of Officer Carlos Castillo and inquired about his recovery progress.
Director Loftus noted his appreciation for the overwhelming good wishes and prayers received from the County family on behalf of Officer Castillo and his family. He said Officer Castillo was now breathing without machines; and doctors were now treating other injuries.
Commissioner Edmonson acknowledged Director Loftus for sending staff to discuss the teen curfew issue. She questioned whether the Department was sufficiently equipped to address gang issues and ways in which the Commission could be of assistance.
Director Loftus responded that the Department was intellectually, physically and mechanically prepared. He emphasized the importance of encouraging citizens to come forward with information. Director Loftus said those who had witnessed events were the ones who would make a difference.
Commissioner Edmonson noted her support and asked Director Loftus to participate in a press release which would be distributed to the community before the July 4th celebration.
Commissioner Rolle questioned the homicide increase and the boundaries of the Northside District.
Director Loftus responded that the 150 percent increase related to the increased murder rate in the Northside District from 2009 to 2010. He noted the District encompassed several Commission Districts and primarily the Liberty City area.
Commissioner Rolle inquired about the Department’s teen curfew policy.
Director Loftus noted the Department supported a teen curfew policy with over 1,201 curfew violations in 2009 and over 260 year-to-date violations. He said that it was a victory if a criminal act was eliminated by taking just one of these teens home for a curfew violation.
Commissioner Rolle asked Director Loftus to meet with representatives from the City of Miami Police Department to discuss questionable activities at a teen club behind the pawn shop located at NW 78 Street and NW 7 Avenue and report back to him on the outcome of this discussion.
Director Loftus said the working relationship between the City of Miami’s Police Department and the County was improved due to Chief of Police Miguel Exposito’s dedication to combating street crime.
Commissioner Edmonson commended the Miami-Dade Police Department for its cooperative efforts with the City of Miami Police Department, the Miami-Dade Public Schools Police Department and other municipal government police departments.
Commissioner Martinez said it was a privilege and honor to see Director Loftus wearing his uniform today rather than being dressed in street clothes.
Commissioner Seijas noted the effectiveness of curfews and the Interlocal agreement between all police agency gang units which began 20 years ago under the leadership of Police Director Fred Taylor.
Commissioner Diaz congratulated Director Loftus; the Miami-Dade Police Department; and all other departments that were cooperatively working to address gang related issues.
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