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Update on Community Policing in South Beach

Update on Community Policing in South Beach

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Published by davidwalters
Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez responded to clamor and scandal with a sector patrolling plan. Commissioner Ed Tobin remains critical. Community Policing is popular with police management but is controversial. This reports initial experience with the implementation.
Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez responded to clamor and scandal with a sector patrolling plan. Commissioner Ed Tobin remains critical. Community Policing is popular with police management but is controversial. This reports initial experience with the implementation.

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Published by: davidwalters on Oct 09, 2012
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04/13/2013

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MIAMI MIRROR
TRUE REFLECTIONS
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UPDATE ON COMMUNITY POLICING IN SOUTH BEACH
By David Arthur WaltersOctober 9, 2012The Miami Beach Police Department recently responded to a public clamor for better servicewith a sector policing plan presented by Chief Raymond Martinez. Sector policing entails theassignment of the same police officers to regularly patrol small sectors of a broad area. The Cityof Miami Beach was itself a single policing area until it was divided into three policing districts,each under its own captain. Now the three districts have been divided into eight sectors under thesame district captains. Four of those sectors including the South Beach Entertainment Sectorcomprise the South District. The Middle and North Districts have two sectors each.
The Sector Plan was developed several years ago by various members of the department as theway to change the way we did business
,” Chief Martinez explained
.
At the time, it was notadopted as there was resistance to change within the organization. The fact is that until the SectorPlan we assigned officers the same way we did thirty years ago. There was no accountability.Officers were assigned to the three main areas of the city but the officers would go whereverthey wanted
.”
 Sector policing is considered to be the practical application of the principles of communitypolicing. Sector policing to stays in constant touch with members of communities, provides themwith a voice in how their sectors are policed, and enables them to participate. The four mainelements of community policing are sometimes identified as CAMP: Consultation: regularlyconsult with communities about their needs. Adaptation: adapt organizational structures toprovide local commanders with greater authority. Mobilization: mobilize civilian agencies andindividuals to realize policing goals. Problem-solving: identify and solve problems to reducecrime and insecurity.
 
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The democratic notion of community policing remains virtually sacrosanct despite widespreadcriticism. It has been disparaged in Great Britain as a romantic delusion if not an attempt toenhance the authoritarian powers of an evolving racist state. That is hardly the case in our smalltown. In any event, practices may not be the ones preached. There has been a marked tendencyfor police to revert to traditional crime fighting, responding to incidents instead of consultingwith civilians and being proactive. The rank-and-file may have little or no faith in the communitypolicing ideology to begin with. Resources including the means of communication may beinadequate. Whatever communication does exist may have been dominated by smooth-talkingpolice commanders, journalists, middle class people over forty, and so on. Absent also has beenthe promised visibility of familiar police officers, especially on foot patrols. And just keepingofficers within a sector may be a fantasy that can never come true because of the contingencies.The Miami Beach Police Department brass has indeed reached out to the community, holdingneighborhood meets and greets and neighborhood walkarounds. Captain Causey in the SouthDistrict, for example, regularly drafts and emails a newsletter to community members, andresponds to anyone who comes forward with concerns. Six foot patrolmen, two on each shift,have been assigned to patrol nightclub-ridden Washington Avenue in South Beach. Those stepscertainly enhance visibility and transparency, but there seems to be a marked reduction in thenumber of squad cars patrolling the streets and alleys in adjacent neighborhoods.Nowadays the term,
„community policing,‟
is associated with such a broad spectrum of bureaucratic modernization
involving “private/public partnering”
that it is difficult to preciselydefine what it is. Some critics believe that Community Policing is a brand name that has more todo with a broad variety of subjective or irrational consumer inclinations rather than with rational,objective results. Therefore the results of community policing may become too
“soft,” dealing
with attitudes rather than acts, and therefore difficult to measure.Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin, a former prosecutor and a recent graduate of the policeacademy who takes a keen interest in the policing of the City of Miami Beach, has consistentlyobjected to sector-patrol implementation of community policing because of budgetary andmanpower allocation concerns.
“We disbanded the drug and auto theft units and took one detective out of the detective bureau
toput uniforms on the street for the sector plan
,” he said
.
Crime fighting requires an overlap of various approaches. Detectives are critical. All crime seems to have a common intersection withdrugs, so a narcotics unit is essential for developing intelligence on the professional criminals.Sector plans require a significant increase in manpower. Otherwise it's a publicity stunt formerchants and residents to enjoy. Our business is to protect the public business, not theenjoyment business. In other words, we need to protect the public, not provide a plan that peopleenjoy/appreciate.
 Although public perception is important, it is true that a feel-good sector plan that may pleasebusinesses and residents in the entertainment sector may not be best for all. However that maybe, t
he famed “enjoyment business” of Miami Beach, particularly its South Beach brand of 
enjoyment in the South District,
gets the lion‟s share of attention: many South Beach residen
ts
 
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are barely aware of the districts to the north. It certainly deserves much attention as the foremosttourist and residential center dedicated to the pursuit of happiness, an interest it shares with therest of the city. The impact of the enjoyment business is more than substantial when on anyaverage day the number of visitors is almost equal to that of residents.When we asked Chief Martinez if Commissioner Tobin had the right information about the drug
and auto theft units, he said, “
I did not disband the narcotics unit. I decentralized it, creatingsmall crime suppression teams, and tasked them with addressing street level crimes such as drugsand prostitution. We continue to make drug arrests and conduct investigations focusing on whathappens at the street level. We still investigate auto thefts. In fact our auto thefts are down26.87% for the first 8 months of the year.
 A pressing need repeatedly expressed by aggravated residents and businesses has been for theenforcement of quality-of-life ordinances and better patrolling in and around the entertainmentsector of South Beach. It is a relatively small area but it is a magnet for tourists and criminalswho prey upon them and residents alike, and it attracts strangers whose notion of entertainmentis drunken, disorderly, and sometimes violent conduct including shootouts and fatal beatings.Merchants initially expressed appreciation for the restoration of foot patrols on WashingtonAvenue, which are associated with sector patrolling.
“I support sector policing because it makes sense to me to have police assigned to regular beats
in order for them to better know the residents and recognize the nonresidents, in addition topatrolling Washington Avenue,
said David Kelsey, President of the South Beach Hotel andRestaurant Association. He recalled that it was his suggestion in the late 1990s to divide thecitywide policing area into three districts, which was tried, accepted and continued, and thensectors were defined. Apparently officers were allowed to roam wherever they wanted, however,hence might not be available when wanted in their specific areas, a strategic anomaly resolved byChief Martinez with the institution of true Sector Patrols.Public perception is crucial to the success of community policing.
Far less “riffraff” is visible
since the foot patrols began. Panhandling has diminished along with the number of vagrants anddestitute derelicts who refuse to accept public assistance. And significant felony arrests havescored by the beat cops. Still the principle of community interaction has yet to be fully realized.Although some business operators say the cops are friendly, dropping into their places of business for a chat, residents on the avenue fear them more than welcome them, and claim theyare standoffish.I politely accosted Lt. W. Jones and his team at a sushi place on Washington. He was affableenough. He said sector patrolling was working well, that it was impossible to please everybody,but every effort is being made to perfect it.
Chief Martinez was on the same page when he informed us that “t
he Sector Plan is a way of assigning our personnel to the same Sector everyday so they become familiar with the Sectorthey are working and at the same time accountable for what goes on in the Sector. Is it perfect?No. Would it work better if we had more officers? Yes. So would any staffing plan. If we did not

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