Monday , 22 December 2014
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Home break-ins on the rise; residents fight back with Crime Watch

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Pictured are Pinecrest Crime Watch coordinators (l-r) Susan Randall, Ike Seamans, Javier Aguirre, Kathryn Watford, Johanna Law and Village Crime Prevention Officer Sgt.Mike Gorsline.

In July, a north Pinecrest resident had his home broken into twice in two weeks; jewelry valued at $300,000 was stolen.

My neighbor across the street had an attempted break-in. Three weeks ago, there were three break-ins in the Village in a three-day span. My next-door neighbor had $5,000 worth of scuba gear stolen from his garage and his cars parked in the driveway have been broken into. A large boat in Gables By The Sea was stolen. In August, I had a $3,000 generator stolen from my backyard in broad daylight while I was at home. And on and on and on.

Automobile burglars are having a field day in strip malls. Why? Many people don’t lock their cars and leave items in plain view. These petty thieves will smash your window to steal anything — small change, sunglasses, magazines, you name it. The Falls Shopping Center warns customers that thieves are burglarizing cars in their parking lots as never before: “Please, (ladies especially) do not leave your purse, makeup bag, gym bag, cell phone, etc. in the car! not even for a second!”

In the past few months, there has been an unprecedented number of break-ins like I’ve never seen before in our village. And I’ve lived in the same house for 28 years.

Never had a serious crime against my person or property. Until now.

Miami Dade Police Department detectives say many thefts are “on order” from flea markets and similar operations that depend on buying, no questions asked, a constant flow of items to sell. According to a Miami-Dade Police Department source, thieves have been told that Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Kendall are especially “easy targets” for burglars because home security is not taken seriously by many residents. They also suspect ”inside jobs” perpetrated by thieves who are familiar with our neighborhoods. When I was renovating my home, I had a mind boggling gaggle of anonymous guys parading in and out of my home for four months.

A prominent criminal defense lawyer and long-time Pinecrest resident, warns, “These guys have ‘open season’ on anything from West Kendall to the Bay, house and car burglaries, thefts of any kind. It is only a matter of time until someone gets hurt in a confrontation.”

Pinecrest police are fighting back hard with increased patrols and surveillance. But there’s no way they can do it alone. They need neighborhoods that are vigilant and residents who are the “eyes and ears” to alert them to suspicious activity in real time.

That’s already happening in my neighborhood because Sgt. Mike Gorsline, a crime prevention officer, convinced me to organize a Crime Watch group. The interest from concerned neighbors has been overwhelming. We started with five households in late August. Now, we have 30 and counting.

Several years ago, Crime Watch was a popular and effective crime prevention tool here. But as crime rates dropped, the community felt more secure and lost interest. Neighborhood Crime Watch basically disappeared. It’s back!

In 2008, under the direction of Pinecrest Detective Alexandria Martinez, Crime Watch was revived. During its first year, just three neighborhoods formed groups. Now, there are eight, and the interest is growing.

“The philosophy is simple,” she tells me. “If you see or hear something suspicious, report it to police immediately. Neighborhood Crime Watch works. Criminal activity has been significantly reduced in areas where the program exists.”

I recently met with coordinators (I’m one of them) of these watch dog groups. In the neighborhoods they represent, they’ve seen increased vigilance. But break-ins and thefts continue.

Neighborhood Crime Watch couldn’t be simpler: Get involved, be alert, learn something about your neighbors, exchange information. For example, let them know if you are going to be gone for an extended period so they can keep an eye on your home. If 10 percent of us do that now, I’d be shocked!

If your idea of preventing crime is to sneak in and out of your house without knowing your neighbors and not paying attention to what’s happening around you (as I did for years) with the attitude, “Let someone else do it, I’m too busy,” that’s a good start toward becoming a victim.

You mean to tell me, you are so busy you can’t become familiar with your own neighborhood, stay alert and report suspicious activity to the police? You really believe that’s an unacceptable, unreasonable imposition on your valuable time and privacy? We’re not talking about snooping. We’re talking about common sense. Wake up and smell the crime, my friends.

Don’t forget the resident I mentioned above who had $300,000 in jewelry stolen? And what about my $3,000 generator? A perfect example of what not being alert is all about. I left it outside in plain view and not secured. I might as well have posted this sign: “Generator available for stealing. Come and get it!”

Look, we all know that determined, professional thieves will usually get whatever they want. That’s their job. But by getting involved with Neighborhood Crime Watch, which is really just a “neighbor looking out for neighbor” initiative and improving your home’s security, we have a chance to discourage them and perhaps totally defeat the amateurs who are more dangerous than the pros. That’s why you should care about Crime Watch. If not, I’ll be looking for your name in the next police criminal incidents report. Get involved. Now.

To form a Neighborhood Crime Watch group, contact the Pinecrest Police Crime Prevention Unit at 305-234-2100. They will knock themselves out to help you get started (even throw a Block Party once you are up and running!). Ike Seamans is a Pinecrest resident and retired NBC News correspondent. He is a frequentcontributor to the Pinecrest Tribune.

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