Commissioner Zapata seeks West District policing boost

Miami-Dade District 11 Commissioner Juan Zapata is seeking to restore up to 33 police positions in the West (Hammocks) Police District.

The district’s population growth “has greatly increased the number of officers required to adequately police the area,” he stated in a Dec. 2 memo to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Asking for a priority to increase the number of positions within the district, Zapata said “with a population of 329,656, the West District is nearly twice the size of every other police district in the county but has the second highest call volume and third highest number of total crimes countywide.

“Despite this, the district has by far the least number of filled sworn officers per resident,” he continued, including a table in the memo that gave the number of “Residents Per Filled Sworn Officer” in seven county police districts opposite each district’s population figure. The following are police districts, numbers of residents per filled police position and population (in parenthesis):
West, 1,852, (329,656);
Kendall, 1,163, (178,017);
Midwest, 1,102, (165,393);
Intracoastal, 802, (105,980);
South, 778, (141,676);
Northwest, 699, (92,379), and
Northside, 487, (90,013).

Due to increased revenue over recent fiscal years, Gimenez intends to provide 100 additional police positions in the 2015-16 county budget, adopted Oct. 1.

The figure subsequently was increased to 125 thanks to a three-year U. S. Department of Justice grant of $3.125 million that allows hiring of 25 additional officers in 2015-16, according to the mayor’s Nov. 5 response to Zapata’s original request made on Sept. 18, the day follow- ing the county’s second budget hearing.

“In regards to the deployment of additional police officers, MDPD considers many factors when making decisions regarding the deployment of sworn personnel,” the mayor stated. “These factors include geography, population, severity of crime, calls for service (type and volume), response times and attrition rates.”

“An increase in the number of officers for the district would obviously be a benefit,” said Maj. Mirtha V. Ramos, West District Commander, noting recent budget cuts had reduced 24-hour services by the Agricultural Section that operates largely in Homestead and Redland rural areas.

Zapata maintains that the West District has “only filled 178 of its 211 budgeted positions for sworn police officers” noting that “while the North District has a slightly lower percentage of filled positions, it has a significantly lower ratio of officers to residents.”

While agreeing other factors effect staffing, Zapata nonetheless said the West District’s crime rate and volume of calls “do not justify the disparity in the number of officers per resident.

“This shortfall will only be further exacerbated by continued population growth in southwest Miami-Dade and the pending retirement of a substantial portion of West District police force,” he stated, urging Gimenez to address “the West District before bolstering other districts.”

Zapata underscored his request with additional documentation, including one table that ranked the West District among the highest in crimes reported in 2014 — a total 10,438, third highest among seven county police districts. Only the South (11,496) and Northside (11,336) districts rated higher than the West District.

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