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City approves adding police to Miami force

Last night, a result of the leadership of Mayor Regalado and Commissioner Sarnoff, and the activism and involvement of the community, the City Commission voted unanimously for a new budget that will put more police officers on our streets.

The plan promises 95 additional police officers to patrol our streets by April of next year and with at least 25 of them pledged to be on duty by this year’s holiday season.

This is a significant victory for public safety in the City of Miami and one which BHA had supported earlier this year when Commissioner Sarnoff and Chief Manuel Orosa put a plan forward for 100 more hires (below).Miami Herald story 9/27/13

Post from June 8, 2014: Petition drive pushes for more Miami police officers

BHA has been advocating for increased police coverage for years and has included the specific desire to see “a dedicated police force for the Brickell community” in its Legislative Agenda for the past two years. The BHA Board did not hesitate, therefore, to unanimously adopt a Resolution at its May meeting urging officials to hire more police in the City of Miami, supporting a push by Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and Miami Chief of Police Manny Orosa.

BHA joins Commissioner Sarnoff in calling upon the City Commission to make adding police a priority in its budgeting. The March announcement that 33 new officers would be hired next year was welcome news, but Miami Chief of Police Manny Orosa and now most Miami Commissioners agree they need to add 100 new police officers over the next year, bringing the total to 1,244.

The Miami Police force is significantly understaffed, with the City of Miami Police having one of the lowest per-capita police ratios among large U.S. cities. Budget shortfalls, retirements and losing officers to other better-paying municipalities are the main reasons for the shortage.

The need for more officers is becoming acute:

  • The increased density in the urban core—Miami’s Downtown and Brickell—has increased the need for more officers. The Chief has recognized that the Police should break Brickell away “from the Coral Way NET Service Area and staff it with its own contingent of patrol officers, sergeants, and lieutenants.”
  • The daytime population of Miami, a city of 406,000 residents, grows to 560,000 people with those from other municipalities who work in Miami, particularly Downtown and Brickell. The daily addition of so many people to a city significantly increases the demand for police service.
  • Major special events draw even more people to Miami and the surrounding areas. Miami is the 44th largest city in the U.S. in terms of residential population, and the fifth most-visited metropolitan area with 38 million visitors per year.

Commissioner Sarnoff launched a drive petitioning Mayor Tomas Regalado, the City of Miami Commissioners, and City Manager Johnny Martinez to “hire hundreds more police, increase the pace of new hires and raise standards.” Brickell neighbors are urged to sign the petition at http://bit.ly/moremiamipolice.

According to Chief Orosa, the City of Miami Police force currently employs 2.6 officers for every 1,000 inhabitants. More than half of the 34 municipalities in Miami-Dade County have a larger police force, including tiny bedroom communities like Biscayne Park and Virginia Gardens. Compared to other large cities, Miami is way behind in its ratio of officers per 1,000 inhabitants:

  • Miami Beach: 4.1 officers/1,000
  • New York: 4.2 officers/1,000
  • Boston: 3.5 officers/1,000
  • Baltimore: 4.7 officers/1,000
  • Philadelphia: 4.3 officers/1,000

Chief Orosa also provided compelling research that correlates an increase in the number of police officers with a decrease in crime. He also shared intriguing data about the cost of crime, pointing to studies that have derived a dollar value for particular criminal acts by factoring in tangible and intangible costs for all those involved (government and private sector).

Chief Orosa concludes that adding 100 new hires for a total of 1,244 police officers would have two significant consequences. First, crime would decrease by 2.8%. That’s 805 fewer homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larcenies/thefts, motor vehicle thefts, and arson. Second, the government and private sectors would see a combined total crime cost savings of $116 million

The Chief also reported that each additional officer above the current level would cost an average of $73,000 in salary and benefits annually, but would provide a value of $710,965 in terms of crime prevented. While the crime cost savings is split between government and the private sector (15-30%), each new officer’s value would still exceed the City’s cost of employing him or her, the Chief reported.

If approved, the 100 new positions would be used to create new uniform patrol positions, fill vacant positions in the Criminal Investigations Division, and create additional beat and bicycle patrol positions for the City’s population centers. In the intermediate to long-term, Chief Orosa set the goal at 1,360 to meet various thresholds when Miami is compared to counterparts throughout the U.S.

The Miami Herald has written in favor of increasing the police force and reminds its readers that our reliance on tourism, along with our desire to attract new business and lure new residents, makes a strong police presence and fast response times particularly important. History has shown that a slight uptick in crime, or one horrific incident, can put all of that in jeopardy.

BHA salutes Commissioner Sarnoff’s efforts in this area and Chief Orosa’s presentations of the facts and figures behind the issue. Neighbors are urged to sign the petition. At the link you can also read the Chief’s internal memos released with the research that show how far Miami needs to go to catch up.

From BHA News Vol. XXIII No. 1, Spring/Summer 2013