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Can 'My Life Matters' campaign save Miami Gardens?

Carla St.Louis | 1/16/2014, 9 a.m.
The initiative includes a flashy website, Miami Gardens 111, that acts as a portal for Miami Gardens 110,000-plus population to access resources on topics like strengthening . . . Photo by Miami Times Illustration

“The crime needs to stop,” said Alex a barber at Manouche Unisex salon & barber shop. “The smallest thing can benefit this community but most importantly the youth needs something to keep them off the streets aside from school. If the youth are active within their community, they won’t be on the street participating in bad behaviors.”

Community: ‘Why are we targets of stop & frisk?’

While residents are eager for a change--every polled participant viewed the website as a benefit--they’re still concerned with the police department’s treatment of the community.

“If the youth are causing the problem, why is the police department targeting gainfully employed Blacks & retirees,” asked Glen Jackson, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the United States Air Force.

Other residents of Miami Gardens expressed similar concerns with the police department.

“We voted them in and they came and jumped on the community,” said Darell Dennom. “To clarify, the criminals they need to apprehend them,” he said. “But regularly harassing the community must stop.”

Haye, a friend of Jackson recounted an incident with the Miami Gardens police department where he witnessed them interrogate Jackson. The men were socializing in the parking lot of a shopping plaza in Miami Gardens, a makeshift men’s quarter that’s regularly filled with gainfully employed Blacks and retirees, said Haye. He along with others, watched as Roberson was patted down for drugs, his car was searched and he was given a ticket for possessing three open containers of alcohol. “They just came up on him,” Haye said. “He wasn’t loitering yet they interrogated him. I was very upset for him. As a retiree and a man who served this country, they shouldn’t have treated him like that.”

Commissioner Jordan echoed the community’s apprehension about the police department’s stop & frisk policy and offered concrete suggestions about it.

“That’s a legitimate concern,” she said. “I live in the City of Miami Gardens and it is my concern as well. In regards to stop & frisk by the police department, it needs to be legal--not discriminatory--because then it’s profiling. In a police department where 70 percent of the force is white and they are serving a community where 85 percent of the population is Black, it’s understandable how it appears as discriminatory because of differences. The police department needs sensitivity training in dealing with the community. If stop & frisk continues to be an issue within the community, then the police department needs to open an investigation and probe the department. I still don’t think the community feels as safe as they should and because of that, the police department needs to focus solely on violent crimes.”

Report: City of Miami Gardens, 51st in crime

According to a data set by the Uniform Crime Reporting for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the City ranked 51st in the country for crime, a drastic improvement from 2008’s 13th ranking.

“Each year since 2008, our Police Department has made great strides in reducing crime on our streets and in our communities,” said Paul L. Miller, Interim Chief of Police for the City of Miami Gardens. “This is a result of the dedication of the men and women of the Miami Gardens Police Department, the leadership of the command staff, the innovation that has and continues to be displayed, and the support of our City leaders and fellow employees that support our residents.”