I am surprised that local leadership of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union for the South Miami PD’s Lower Police Unit would join with a former mayor in actively undermining the work of the police officers it represents, and I am sincerely disappointed that South Miami News would promote this misdirected effort.
Former mayor and perpetual political candidate Horace Feliu came by the Commission meeting on 15 Aug. to report on a make-believe crime wave sweeping South Miami. He claimed that South Miami police needed to do a better job keeping residents safe, and urged High Pines not to pursue annexation with South Miami because it was too dangerous here.
South Miami News repeated Mr. Feliu’s tale of a crime wave, a bogus story invented from anecdotal figures that don’t even exist within the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) standard. South Miami is absolutely NOT having a crime wave today, as shown by the actual crime statistics compiled by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement (FDLE), which do comply with the FBI’s standard. The overall crime rate in South Miami has been cut in half since Horace Feliu was mayor: 9% in 2009 versus 4.6% in 2016. The same is true for violent crimes: 104 in 2009 versus 56 in 2016. In fact, our police have pushed South Miami’s crime rate to the lowest since 1991when FDLE began keeping records. Instead of falsely denigrating the good work of the South Miami Police Dept., Feliu and South Miami News should commend the department leadership and officers for the improved policing programs and enhanced safety they have delivered to the City.
City resident Johnny Jones came by the same Commission to complain that South Miami’s finest had taken the two chairs where he and his friends sit to drink beer outside of Safari “Joe’s” Market on the corner of SW 62nd Ave and SW 64th St., immediately adjacent to a residential neighborhood. An outrage? Just the opposite. Mr. Jones failed to mention that Joe’s Market posts conspicuous signs prohibiting alcohol and drugs onsite.
The officer had good reason to remove those chairs. Our police recently collected crack bags from this site, and they have found the area strewn with beer bottles after the guys are done having a few (photos below).
Consuming alcohol outside a store is illegal and the outdoor drug sales and use it attracts creates a blight on the neighborhood. All these are reasons why our police, who protect the neighborhood day and night, have worked to end public drinking in the parking lot outside this marketplace. Nobody minds a few guys hanging out at the end of the day, but we can’t have people consuming alcohol in a commercial parking lot on a major street corner and attracting outdoor drug activity. They can drink at home, at a tavern, or at a restaurant with a beer & wine license, but not in front of a store. Removing chairs is a lot nicer than arresting guys for having a beer, and sends the same message. Meet community policing.
The South Miami News version of this story, titled “A Message from the Fraternal Order of Police”, shows the FOP union president and a grinning Horace Feliu seated with a few guys outside Joe’s Market in brand new plastic chairs purchased with FOP funds.
Seen in its full context, this picture is disturbing: at the same time as the South Miami Police Department is working to keep the neighborhood safe, lawful, and drug-free, the police union president and a former mayor are actively undermining the police officers who work this beat.
While the South Miami News article presented no evidence of Mr. Feliu’s make-believe crime wave, it did show graphic evidence of a police union president and the former mayor working against the community policing efforts that have brought down crime in the City. It showed these two people facilitating illegal activity that harms economic vitality and quality of life in the neighborhood, and it falsely suggests our police are doing a poor job, when, in fact, our police have made exemplary improvements to the safety of our residents, businesses, and visitors.
Why would the officers elect a union president who undermines their hard work? Nor is it clear why Mr. Feliu believes that promoting illegal activity and unfairly disparaging the South Miami PD will help him get back into public office. Finally, I cannot understand why South Miami News editor Michael Miller chooses to promote this bizarre encouragement of public drinking and drug use right down the street from his own newspaper office and publishing house. The City of Pleasant Living would be better off without these political antics and union theatrics, and the City would certainly benefit from a local newspaper that supports its community by reporting fairly and factually about the hard-working men and women who keep it safe.
For more information, contact me at 305-342-0161 or send emails to PStoddard@southmiamifl.gov