Miami Gardens City officials admit to gang problem

caines | 12/13/2012, 4:30 a.m.

Police and preachers go on the offensive

By all accounts, Miami Gardens car wash owner, Errold Peart, 59, was one of the good guys. He helped people in the community when they needed money to pay their utility or rent bills, distributed food to those who were hungry and hired those with criminal records, especially youth. Thats why his recent murder, just five days before his birthday, is so tragic and hard to accept both for his family and his many friends. On Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2, Peart was shot and killed after going to the aid of a customer that was being held up by several armed robbers at his popular NW 191st Street car wash. Miami Gardens police, activists and clergy from the City have now joined forces in a proactive move to end the recent crime wave that has besieged their community. We all have a responsibility here because this is our home but if we want real success, were going to have to get to the root of the problem, said Alfred Lewers, Jr., operations manager for the City of Miami Gardens Police Department who said he was speaking on behalf of the Citys police chief, Matthew Boyd. We have moved from investigating crime incident-by-incident to a more geographical strategy. Were looking at the places where crimes are being committed. What were asking is that different partners, including the faith-based community, share their talents and time with the police. We have over 100 churches in Miami Gardens that means we have many hands hands that are sorely needed right now. Lewers points out that things are getting better for the 107,000 citizens of Miami Gardens, even in light of an FBI annual crime rate report [2010] that was released in August 2011, which said that the City was #2 among the top ten Florida cities in major crime categories. [St. Petersburg was # 1; Miami Beach was #3; and Miami was #5]. Since we started policing efforts in Miami Gardens, we have seen a 40 percent decrease in crime, he added. Thats the good news. But we know that gang activity is on the rise. We have identified 25 gangs with about 400 members. Now were going after funding for cops programs and going into the schools to give our children the tools they need so they can say no when invited to join these gangs and to therefore begin a potential life of crime. But weve also got to provide opportunities for folks when they are released from prison so that they dont feel like their only option is to return to criminal actions in order to survive. City Manager Danny Crew admits that Miami Gardens does have problems with gangs but points out that his City is not alone. There are rising gang problems all over South Florida yes, we have them too, he said. But the overwhelming number of murders are among people who knew each other. In the case of Errold Peart, it appears he was murdered by strangers. We are in the process of bringing on 10 more officers and have beefed up our street patrols. But weve still been unable to get a handle on the murders. Im not sure anyone in Florida has. We are facing perpetrators with a very different mentality. Criminals cross city and county lines to commit crimes so I think you have to view whats happening here in Miami Gardens as a regional problem in South Florida not as a municipal one, said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert. We are really trying to create an environment where criminals know that if you break the law we will catch you. That involves placing more officers on the streets, greater community involvement and engaging our clergy. We understand that if we are going to truly address crime that it must be done from a holistic perspective.