At just two-and-half square miles and only 10,500 full-time residents, some would say the City of South Miami isn’t really a “city” at all. In fact, urban planners will tell you a city is defined as having a population of one or more million inhabitants.
So really, we’re more of a “town” – and frankly, that’s the way most of us like it – because there is definitely a small town feel to South Miami. We have our quaint neighborhoods and our busy little “downtown” that lies along Red and Sunset, and up and down 73rd. Folks here know one another as South Miamians… It’s like our own little enclave.
But in at least one big way, we’re not a small town at all – especially if you consider our local crime and law enforcement.
South Miami is part of a larger metropolitan area that will exceed a population of more than three million over the next decade. Today, tens of thousands of commuters clog US 1, which divides the city like a great river, twice a day.
Watching over all of this is the South Miami Police Department. From the police chief to our patrol officers, there are only about 50 uniformed members on this force, together with eight or so civilian personnel. Heck, there are retail stores at Dadeland Mall with a larger payroll!
One thing is for certain – our cops do a good job. Even while there are some things they have no control over, such as the multitude of traffic accidents on US 1, to which they still have to respond.
Between 2016 and 2017, crime was up in the city, but you have to put that in perspective. Robberies and burglaries decreased, but there was a relative “spike” in auto thefts, from 12 to 19. Overall, with only 567 crimes reported in the city in 2017, South Miami could hardly be characterized as “crime central.” Generally, the trend of crime here has been downward. There were 945 criminal incidents reported in 2013. That’s an overall drop of 40 percent.
So why should we consider raising police salaries in South Miami? Well, let’s take a look. Staring with the bigger picture. There are 35 independent police departments in Miami-Dade County, ranging from the county’s massive force to tiny departments that patrol the streets in postage-stamp sized villages like El Portal. Among all those jurisdictions, South Miami is firmly in the middle.
Now let’s consider that the starting salary for a cop in South Miami is $48,000 a year, higher than the Miami-Dade Police Department, Hialeah Gardens, Opa-Locka, Virginia Gardens, and microscopic El Portal – which sits at the bottom of the rankings, but well behind 16 other cities.
So then, why are we positioned in the middle of the salary-range pack? Perhaps it’s due to the fact that union representation here is split between the Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Benevolent Association. It may be because of tough negotiating tactics by South Miami’s city manager. Or, it might just be the result of pure dumb luck.
But our luck may be running out.
A situation is merging where there’s an abundance of officers getting ready to retire from police departments all around the county, departments that are ahead of us in terms of pay. So, it stands to reason that our neighboring cities may soon by eyeing our cops as a way to get certified, trained, and experienced officers to fill their dwindling ranks.
So in kicks reality: The better the pay, the better chance at attracting qualified candidates, and believe me when I say, those other towns are not above poaching our qualified, experienced cops. Sure we can replace them. But to do so requires spending a lot more money training several classes of incoming rookies. Not to mention that inexperienced police officers are less efficient than veterans in everything they do, from writing tickets to apprehending criminals.
So do the math! If we want to hang onto South Miami’s finest, we’d be best prepared by showing our appreciation – now – before it’s too late. And a handshake or an “attaboy” or “attagirl” isn’t enough anymore.
We’re going to have to put our money where our mouth is. It’s time to give the South Miami Police a raise.