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     


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