Tonight at Palmetto Bay Village Hall, Vice Mayor Brian Pariser hosted a town hall meeting to talk about crime. Nearly 50 interested residents turned out to hear the latest statistics and information from Commander Truitt and Officer Judge of the Palmetto Bay Policing Unit. Alina Lopez, from Citizens' Crime Watch was also on hand.
Vice Mayor Pariser opened the evening on a positive note, "The Village Council has approved funds that allow us to add two additional officers to our streets on top of the existing 40. This helps us increase our coverage and hopefully reduce crime."
Commander Greg Truitt provided some important stats, "We have less crime in Palmetto Bay than we did five years ago, but the trend over the past two years is increasing burglaries. We have 9 more burglaries this year to date than last year at this time." The Commander went on to remind people that the eyes and ears of 25-thousand residents see more than his 40 officers. "If you see something that doesn't look right, call 305-4POLICE. We don't want you to dismiss things. Let us check it out. It's our job to investigate" He went on to give two examples of how seemingly benign information called in by Palmetto Bay residents led to arrests.
Truitt continued with some protection information, "Yo want to add layers of security where you can. Locks, lights and landscaping. Locked doors help keep the bad guys out. Not having dark areas around your home at night helps. And, not providing hiding places with landscaping helps. Pariser later added, "Make sure you have large, easy to read street numbers for your home...with lighting at night if possible. It makes it easier for emergency personnel to find you when time is critical."
Officer Peter Judge, fresh off being named Miami-Dade Citizens' Crime Watch's '2012 Officer of the Year', spoke next. "Alarms are good, but once an alarm goes off the monitoring companies first have to call the homeowner and then call the police second. This is after a 30-45 second delay of the system first calling in to the monitoring station. By that time, most burglars have taken what they want and are long gone." The best thing you can do is put an immediate audible alarm on your home that alerts your neighbors. "As neighbors, when you hear an alarm we hope you look out the window, take down any details of what you see and immediately call the police. Look for tag numbers, distinctive features or anything that can help us quickly identify the suspect."
Alina Lopez, from Citizens' Crime Watch, fielded questions about forming Neighborhood Watch groups. Palmetto Bay has seven active groups. She highlighted a few points about the program, "The yellow crime watch signs are a layer of security that may make a criminal think twice, but only residents can pick up the phone." She went on to say, "Neighborhood Watch groups should be intimate. 50 homes is too large. You want to be at a size where you can reasonably know the basics about your neighbors and feel comfortable sharing contact information. To be effective, you want to have at least 30% of homes on your block participating."
As a Citizens' Crime Watch block captain, I can say that there is always more to learn and vigilance is most important. Its a great start knowing that you should have no reservations or shame in calling the police to investigate something. Next, knowing that your neighbors are watching out for you adds to the feeling of security. Finally, educating yourself about how to add security features to your home is key.
Vice Mayor Pariser wrapped up the meeting by reminding everyone that the policing unit is there for residences, businesses and also regularly educating our kids through school programs. Alina Lopez made sure everyone knew that she was available to help form new Citizens' Crime Watch groups.