Friday, December 28, 2012

Chief Daniels And Neighborhood Watch

Last night, North Bay Village police chief Daniels held his first community meeting since taking the job over two years ago.   The subject was the possible (re) establishment of a neighborhood crime watch program.  The presentation was disjointed, riddled with errors and condescensionsAnd I for one don't believe that Daniels is remotely interested in working with the community.  Nothing in his tenure shows that.  

Let's start with the meeting itself.  It was called after the lack of response to a brazen home invasion two weeks ago.  In two incidents on the same night, a resident on S. Treasure Drive reported a man running through her yard with a gun at 2 AMThe police were unable to find the runner but a few hours later, a homeowner on Adventure reported a break in through a locked window and a stolen car.   

Several Adventure residents requested a meeting last Wednesday with the Chief to discuss specifics about the robbery.  The meeting was held but the Chief was not there, delegating the meeting to subordinates.  Among other outcomes, the Chief promised to circulate a flier to the Treasure Island houses warning about the break in and soliciting information.   The Chief reiterated that promise to me in person last Thursday.  And then didn't do it.  Instead, three cop cars parked on North Treasure Drive and Hispanola for about an hour and handed out fliers randomly to passing motorists.   

The materials last night consisted of a cribbed Power Point from Neighborhood Watch Miami.   The chief had obviously not even read it.  (News flash:  Neighborhood Watch has been around 40 years, not 30.  source:  the materials handed out.) and spent most of the time riffing.  There was no organized presentation, no clear steps to the process, just some general advice about locks.  And for those of you thinking about following the Chief's advice to get a double cylinder lock, they do help reduce break-ins but make sure there's never a fire in your house because, you know, looking for the key in smoke and flames is hard.  That's why double cylinder locks are against code in many states.   But I'm sure you'll be fine.

The Chief also explained that vehicle burglaries are because people don't lock their cars.  Seriously?  People leave their cars unlocked?  Must be because the chief said in 99.9% of vehicle thefts, that was the case.  I guess the .01% was the car stolen on Adventure last Monday where the house was invaded and the keys taken.  Remember?

This was typical.  Engaging the community is apparently the lowest priority in the PD.   Last night, I asked the chief if he was committing to the crime watch after he had several times qualified by saying "if the community wants".   Finally he said he was committed.  

 Know what else the chief is committed to?  The  PAL, which he suspended without notice two years ago and has yet to reinstate, in spite of it being funded and there being community support for the program.   Daniels has said many times that he is committed to the PAL but has never acted on it.  So what does "committed" mean?

I am afraid the crime watch will be the same rhetorical commitment.  There is community support.  I haven't seen that many people since the strip club hearings.  Last night would have been a great time to start the Neighborhood Watch, not make a vague promise about a "to be scheduled" meeting with Miami Dade's Neighborhood Watch's team.   

I mention that I don't see the police chief having community involvement as a priority.   Money tells us what matters to the person spending it and so far, the chief has spent well over $300,000 pursuing a case against an officer fired by the PD.   The final result of that effort was full reinstatement when the arbitrator found that none of the police testimony was credible.   None of it.  

The chief is pursuing another case against a fired officer that is nothing more than a transparent attempt to punish union activity.  Virtually no one expects the city to prevail and that is going to wind up costing us about the same or more.  All in two years on the job.  If he was a manager at any corporation in America and spent 50% of his operating budget on two employees, he would no longer be a manager.  

The chief talked about the budget issues involved in a high resolution camera to track license plates on Treasure Island, about a $100,000.  This could have been funded years ago by the Law Enforcement Trust Fund but that hasn't happened.  

Here's the something the Law Enforcement Trust Fund laid out for.  Last year, the Chief took $5,000 from it to attend something called the "Seven Isles Police Chief's Dinner" which was sponsored by the police chief in Bal Harbour.  A nice dinner I'd imagine.  You may have followed how that use of the LETF money in Bal Harbour has gone.  

Let's get back to the money spent on investigating our own police officers.  The only outcome of what is sure to exceed $500,000 has been to establish that the arbitrator doesn't trust our officers testimony. We had to lay off two good cops to pay for this arbitration.   Yet the legal bills are mounting up for the second case, also bound to lose, while the cops we've known for years are kept away from the community.   

There is no PAL, our emergency community communications, no outreach to elderly and disabled, and no Neighborhood Watch programs.  Instead, the money is spent irresponsibly for routine management issues elevated to court battles.  The police didn't even distribute a simple flier while our police station is hidden from view and our police cars are kept in a derelict lot in full public view..   

North Bay Village has seen rocky times but through it all, the one thing we could count on were cops who engaged with the community.  That's no longer true.  
Maybe Daniels will be forced to create a Neighborhood Watch.  Maybe he'll stop the politicking and start the managing.  Maybe he'll put the police back in the community.  But I'm not betting on it.  

Kevin Vericker
December 28, 2012     


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Local Crime

CRIME INCIDENT: There was a brazen break in on Sunday night/Monday morning. As I understand it, someone entered a house on Adventure where the occupants were sleeping, stole a purse containing car keys, and drove off in the car. The robbery was reported in the morning. There was also a police call around 2 AM that a man had been seen running through the yards on S. Treasure and that he was carrying a gun. The police responded but did not find him.

Last night, the police and the mayor met with a group of residents to discuss the situation. The investigation is ongoing but in the meantime, the police are hand delivering a flier today with a description of the break in. The flier will be distributed door to door to the single family homes and available at the apartments.  

A little known service is that the police will on your request do a security review of your home. You can call them at 305 758-2626 or email them through the website to request the service.

It's scary to know that leaving your windows open while you're in the house can be a security risk but it is.

There is also increased police presence at Treasure Island Elementary School. You may have noticed the police units stationed in front of and behind the school. Obviously this is in response to the horror in Connecticut.

No parent in the world can drop their kids off at school without thinking it could happen here and the sad truth is that it can. But the police and the school are working to make it safer. Again, you should have the number of the PD in your speed dial, 305 758-2626, and if you're concerned, call the PD and talk with them about their plans and your suggestions.  We're all in this

Kevin Vericker 
December 20, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December on the Agenda

This email came today from Richard Chervony.   It covers the upcoming legislative agenda for December:

On 12/6/2012 8:36 AM, richard chervony wrote:
After a very quiet November with no Commission Meetings, except for the swearing in ceremony we now have a packed December, right before the Holidays.
Tuesday, December 11th @ 7:30 PM
1700 Kennedy Causeway, #132
Some highlights of items to be discussed at this meeting are (full Agenda can be found at WWW.NBVILLAGE.COM
     - Election of Vice Mayor
    - Increasing the Scope of the Youth Service Board to Youth and Education Service Board
    - Improvements to Dr. Paul Vogel Park
    - Planning and Design of the Baywalk Plaza - Phase I
    - Creation of the Foreclosure Registry
    - Choosing of a Landscaping Company
     - Discussion and possible action on the RFQ (Rquest for Qualification) for Legal Services
    - Discussion and possible action to choose our External Auditing Service
    - Discussion and possible action with Florida Dept of Transportation (FDOT) Local Funding Agreement
    - Discussion and possible action in acquiring open space land for a future park
Saturday, December 15th @ 2:30 PM
Winter Wonderlan Event
Galleon Street, Treasure Isle
We are closing down the street and letting our residents, especially the little ones frolic and enjoy our Winter Wonderland.
Tuesday, December 18th @ 7:30 PM
1700 Kennedy Causeway, #132
Some highlights of items to be discussed at this meeting are (full Agenda can be found at WWW.NBVILLAGE.COM)
      - Request to operate a Subway at the Public Storage Building on the Causeway
     - Request to operate a boat, jet ski, kayak rental business at Commercial Marina at 7904 West Drive.  
Looking forward to seeing you at some or all of these events.

Richard Chervony
North Bay Island Commissioner

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Response to My Post About the Police

In response to my post from yesterday about the lack of community police efforts in North Bay Village, a commenter at LEOAFFAIRS posted the following:

Vericker blog
Postby Get a grip » 11/28/12 20:05:16
Wow,how sad about the blog from Mr. Vericker. He knows he sees the Officers patrol by his house every day,about once an hour at least. Too bad he does not see all of the elderly welfare checks done,the watch orders done, the special area checks done. The Officers are checking the parks, going to all sick and injured calls, handling all issued calls for service, writing reports, writing citations, movers, parkers, city ordnance issues. Basically keeping the crime rate one of the lowest in the County. Oh by the ways about the cars that were bought with non resident funds, well too bad most people do not know there are only several police certified type of models available to agencies to keep the liability down. Mr. Vericker prisoner cages and all the other equipment needed to keep you safe are not made but for the few types of these cars, but too bad you did not ask.
All this and more and yes the Officers do have a great response time on top of all of that. Don't worry though I am sure they will keep protecting you and all the other residents, even the elderly. Ho my gosh almost forgot, the police do know where the elderly live when all of the residents were asked over the last several to register.
PS you want PAL go ask the schools police, maybe they have money.
I'm not a big fan of Leo Affairs as it almost always anonymous and often inflammatory for the sake of being inflammatory.  The poster here though brings up some points that it is only fair to address.   

Starting with the PS:  The PD budget has included money for PAL now for two years running.   This money is entirely under the control of the PD and it was the Chief who decided to end the program.   

As regards the only statement that actually speaks to my point about community policing, "the police do know where the elderly live" my question is how?   With no active outreach programs, no surveys by the city, nowhere on the web site to register and no newsletters, this is a hit or miss proposition.  Community Policing is clear, visible and consistent.   

Which speaks to the larger issue.  "Get A Grip" talks about the number of responses, patrols,  and other functions.  For years, the commission has asked the chief for a useful breakdown of activities and instead gets a pile of numbers each meeting that doesn't tell them anything about what the PD is doing (e.g. responded to xx number of service calls, rendered yy number of assistance to medical issues, apprehended ## number of suspects.)  As recently as two months ago, the police chief did not know the statistics on robberies.   

"Get A Grip" has a point.  The police do a lot and it's not the rank and file that concern me.  Quite the opposite.  A surprising number of the PD members talk to me regularly, and they are deeply frustrated that their efforts go unreported, and several have shared that they are actively discouraged from developing community relations.  It's the management that does not promote and engage with the community.   

I take exception to where "Get A Grip" say the cars were bought with "non-resident" money.  No, it was our money.  That it came from the LETF rather than the general fund does not change whose it is, and that's my point.   We purchased more cars and more expensive cars than were needed.   When you buy one thing, you don't buy another, and the programs that would make this a better place to live have been ignored.  

The two cops laid off could have been funded by LETF money if they were assigned to community policing activities such as PAL, Outreach to the Elderly, Crime Prevention, Gang Watches. Keeping the staff and improving the community are more urgent than many of the choices made and our PD Management have to answer to that. 

Kevin Vericker
Nov 29 , 2012 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time for the Police to Step Up

How effective is our police department? The chief has often pointed to the rapid response time to calls for service as exceptional and he's probably right. The police do show up quickly when there is a call. It would be interesting to see measurements on how quickly and what type of calls they are responding to, but this quick response seems to be pretty consistent, so that's good.

But Public Safety is more than just response when something illegal or threatening happens. Good public safety also includes prevention and enhancement. In most cities, the role of the police includes active outreach to the community. Community policing means presence on the street, in the playgrounds and parks, and contact with the most vulnerable residents.

We don't have any of that.

Two years ago, the police chief summarily “suspended” the Police Activities League, the town's only program for teens and young adults without consultation with the board, the parents or the community. In spite of repeated requests, all we've heard is a vague “the chief is committed to the PAL” but no action, no action at all.

There is no community crime prevention. The police used to hold regular sessions with the residents to discuss ways that houses could be made more secure, address concerns about perceived or real problems and be in touch with the community by talking informally with residents. The police were usually the first to know about problems, not the last in a chain that finally leads to a crime response call.

There is no outreach to the elderly and the disabled, a critical service in many cities, particularly those cities prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes or flooding. If, really when, we have our next natural disaster, the police wouldn't even know where to look for residents most in need of help, the residents who are least able to call.

The excuse used for much of this are the budget constraints imposed in tight times and that's not unfair. But for years, the Law Enforcement Trust Fund has been used as a piggy bank to fund expensive vehicle purchases, pay for entertainments like the Seven Island Chief's Dinner, and other such expenses. Let's just look at the cars – high performance, forbidding looking vehicles obviously designed for a much more extensive geography which patrol our streets with the police hidden behind darkened windows. They look like something from a science fiction apocalyptic movie instead of a community police force.

The police could have spent less on the cars (I know we needed new ones) and used the money to create a registry of disabled residents to check up on.

Instead of the Seven Island's Chief's Dinner, a nondescript charity, the police could have created community education seminars on crime prevention.

The list goes on. It's not a question of the money, but rather how the PD decides to spend that money and so far, it's been spent on a lot of things that neither improve the life of the community or the environment of the police work force. In fact, from what several cops are telling me, it's a pretty grim place to work now.

Four stars on the quick response time, but that's only one measure among many for the effectiveness of public safety and on every important community measure – crime prevention, outreach, education – there is no effort at all. It's time to get serious about doing it right.

Kevin Vericker November 28, 2012