City makes several changes to enhance public safety

Community Policing Vehicles
Community Policing Vehicles

Recently the Sunny Isles Beach Ocean Rescue Division (Ocean Rescue) was moved from the Department of Cultural and Community Services to the Police Department in order to bring both public safety operations under one roof. Ocean Rescue, which is led by Justin Broman, Ocean Rescue Manager, became part of the newly formed Community Policing/Special Operations Unit, which is led by Sgt. Lee Athanasiou. Sgt. Athanasiou has been with the Police Department since 1998; he has worked road patrol, beach brings all of his extensive policing experience to his new role in charge of this unit.

The Community Policing/Special Operations Unit is made up of several components, including our Community Policing officers and our School Resource Officer, the Traffic Unit and Ocean Rescue. The City is hiring 6 more police officers, allowing us to move 4 of our veteran officers to our new Community Policing unit. This will be a group of officers who you will see riding around town on bicycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and patrolling our parks, beaches, neighborhoods and businesses. Their primary responsibility will be to ensure the safety of residents and visitors to our beautiful parks, including our world class beach. Whether they are riding their bicycles, walking the parks or patrolling the beach on ATVs, these officers will be meeting and talking with the public about any concerns they might have, or just to say hello. These officers will be very easy to recognize and spot as they will be wearing high visibility yellow police style polo shirts and uniform shorts.

Along with the change of departments for Ocean Rescue, the city has decided to double the number of lifeguard towers on the beach. A new tower was recently built and opened, and 3 new towers are currently under construction. We anticipate the 3 new towers to be operational no later than July 2012 (weather permitting).

You might have already noticed these new towers being built and thought to yourself that some of them seem awfully close to already existing towers. The new towers are being built where we intend to place them, but until they are complete we cannot move the existing towers to their new locations without creating very large gaps in our coverage of the beach. Once the new towers are complete, the existing towers will be moved to their new locations.

Eventually there will be a total of 10 lifeguard ‘towers’ along our beachfront, spaced approximately .25 miles apart. The 10 tower locations include a new location on the soon to be reconstructed Newport Fishing Pier. The building on the west end of the pier will have a second floor that will serve as the new Ocean Rescue headquarters. The headquarters will not only serve as an office and meeting space, but the east end of the floor will also be a fully functional tower and will be a lookout point for the entire beach due to its height above the beach.

By providing more towers that are more closely spaced, the lifeguards’ visibility of the beach and ocean will be greatly improved, allowing them to spot and respond to hazardous situations more quickly. This will result in improved response times and allow the lifeguard’s to minimize the number of incidents through preventative measures.

Lifeguards by their very jobs offer watchful eyes, not only on swimmers and sun bathers, but also on the beach and the “happenings” that occur there on a daily basis. These extra sets of eyes will help the police in dealing with many criminal issues before they crop up. With improved training and communications on both sides, the police will be able to interact more fully with the lifeguards, rely on them for important information and become more cognizant of issues they deal with on a regular basis; including petty theft of property issues while people go into our beaches. The police can only be in so many places at once so the additional scope of observation by the lifeguards will be most helpful to the police and most beneficial to the public.

All of these measures are by design to create better response time, better safety measures, enhanced visibility, and most important of all, a more personal connection between the public (residents and tourists) and public safety personnel (police and lifeguards) to create a safer, friendlier environment to live, work and play. Our goal is simple: a concerted effort to provide outstanding government service and public safety to all.

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