PoliceOne Staff Report (MIAMI) -- The police are about to start arresting people for sitting on milk crates on street corners or even riding a bicycle without a bell or horn.
It may sound harsh, but Police Chief Raul Martinez said the new initiative to target minor quality-of-life crimes in the city's poorer neighborhoods will reduce more serious crime.
The Miami Herald reported on the new "minor crime initiative" Monday. The newspaper said that in a three-page bulletin explaining the program, Martinez said it is all part of community policing.
``It is time to focus our attention on the underlying causes that result in criminal activity and provoke fear of crime in our residents, merchants and visitors,'' the newspaper quoted Martinez as saying in the bulletin. ``The cornerstone principle of community policing is that of taking care of the small concerns before they become large problems.''
So, why would police bother to arrest someone sitting on a milk crate on a street corner or riding a bike without a bell, or haul off to jail a person pushing a shopping cart?
Miami Police spokesman Delrish Moss told the Herald that drug dealers frequently sit on milk crates and stolen goods are carted away in shopping carts.
Moss told the newspaper that the key to the new program will be training "strike teams" to strictly enforce state, county and city codes
And police have already made at least one arrest under the program. The Herald reported that Jamaine Lamont Pace, 22, a convicted drug dealer, was pulled over by a Miami police officer Wednesday in Overtown. His alleged crime?
Pace was riding a pink bike without ``warning device capable of giving an audible signal,'' the Herald said. The newspaper also reported that Pace, with a history of street drug dealing and assault and battery, was stopped near known drug trafficking area.
Lawmen told the Herald that the minor crime initiative here is modeled after a similar program in New York City, known as the broken window concept. .
``The `broken window' is based on the theory that if you allow small crimes to happen in a community, there is a perception of not caring and that gives way to bigger crimes,'' Moss told the Herald.
But not everyone is gung-ho about the new policy -- including the American Civil Liberties Union, according to the newspaper.
``What traditionally happens is that often people of color are the ones who usually bear the brunt of this type of enforcement,'' Randall Marshall, legal director for the ACLU of Florida, told the Herald. ``People are really arrested for another reason, but police use these municipal violations that fit into the books.''
``Can you imagine how many children within the city would be locked up if they enforced this strictly?'' he was quoted in the newspaper as saying.