By Isabel Arias, The Miami Herald
Residents of South Pointe, the area south of Sixth Street on Miami Beach, consistently face issues of public disorder, noise and graffiti, but with the opening of a police substation, city of Miami Beach officials see an increased police presence as a way to sustain and enforce safety and order.
Miami Beach officials, including Mayor David Dermer and Commissioners Luis R. Garcia Jr. and Richard Steinberg, participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday on the steps of the Redevelopment District Agency satellite office, 200 Second St.
"I grew up in this area, on Sixth Street and 11th, and saw it decaying. It used to be an industrial area, with this empty lot and a greyhound track," Garcia said. "It's amazing to see the street improvements and now we have an increased police presence," he added.
The city's RDA formed in 1973 to revitalize economic development in older, decaying districts. The RDA Board, run by the City Commission, has the power to issue revenue bonds and use tax increment financing to allocate funding for the renovation of RDA districts. The South Pointe RDA is one of two RDA communities in Miami Beach. The other RDA district is on 24th Street, commonly known as City Center.
Christina Cuervo, assistant city manager and assistant executive director of the Miami Beach Redevelopment Agency, estimated the cost of the building renovation and landscaping at approximately $120,000.
The substation will serve as a satellite location for 11 officers and will offer free space for locals to use for group meetings.
Sgt. David De La Espriella, who was assigned to the South Pointe RDA in February, now heads the RDA satellite office and its four other officers. He said the RDA satellite office will be fully staffed by January with six additional officers.
"This office is a place where officers can come in and out when they need a place to write reports," he said of the building, which contains an office and restrooms. "There will be one officer per shift, but the six officers coming in January will be used as a problem-solving team whenever a situation calls for it," De La Espriella said.
"It won't be open 24 hours a day. But it's important that it's right in the area where the officers will be patrolling."
That's good news to Stacy and Jarret Myer, who with their 8-month-old son Nash live in a condominium near the RDA satellite office
"We were taking a stroll when the nicest police officer came over, began talking to us and invited us to come to the grand opening," Stacy Myer said.
"It's great to have more police around. We have a newborn so safety is a big factor for us," she said.
The Myers joined about 200 others on the grounds of the facility for the grand opening. Kid-friendly activities included Dunk-A-Cop, where officers volunteered to get dunked in a water tank as kids tossed tennis balls at the tank's target.
The five-hour event began at 11 a.m. and also featured demonstrations of a K-9 unit. Tours of a prison transport truck and SWAT van got families interacting with the officers assigned to their RDA community.
"Today is important because kids, especially those who have it tough, will see the police in a different light. We want them to feel safe and friendly toward the police," said Maria Cruz, board member of the Miami Beach Police Athletic League.
Joey Daoud, a senior at Miami Beach High School, is webmaster for the Police Athletic League and was recording his high school band's performance at the grand opening as well as assisting at the PAL booth on the lawn.
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"Events like this merge kids and the community, said Joey, 17. "It's definitely a good thing to see cops and kids in a positive light."