Building Relationships and Solving Problems in North Miami Beach

With today’s distressed economy, federal, state, and local governments are feeling the tightening of their budgets; recently this has been translating into increased risks for public safety. Law enforcement agencies across the country are grasping at ways to preserve the safety of the community while maintaining a balanced, yet shrinking budget. North Miami Beach Police Department (NMBPD) has been a model agency with their creative initiatives over the years, including their recent Neighborhood Services and Inspections Cadet program. The cadet program promotes the spirit of volunteerism as an innovative strategy in such a fragile economy. The program is only one among a string of initiatives that document this successful agency.

North Miami Beach NSI Team Leaders with the NSI van and SUV

NSI Team Leaders with the NSI van and SUV. The NSI leaders include Crime Prevention Officer John Philome (left), Code Enforcement Officer Saul Kalin (right), and Community Policing Sergeant Leo Socorro (not pictured).

The NMBPD established its first community-oriented policing unit shortly after visiting the Flint (MI) Police Department (FPD) in 1987.1 NMBPD officers were so impressed with the holistic approach the FPD officers took to their investigations and service to the community that they decided to adopt the strategy they witnessed. At NMBPD, detectives were expected to look beyond the crime and incorporate a broader perspective during their investigations, which included forming intra-agency task forces when needed. After 7 years of this organizational shift, detectives did not need to be told to conduct community policing investigations—rather there was a complete change of attitude. “Today, detectives no longer have to be told to form a needed task force. Nor do they need to be told to collaborate with the crime prevention unit, community policing unit, businesses, the community, or anyone else. These behaviors have become second nature.”2

With this modern approach to policing, NMBPD created the Neighborhood Services and Inspections (NSI) team in March 2010 centered around the motto “Partnerships, Problem Solving, Quality Service!”3 The NSI adopted the following vision statement:

Improve the quality of life for all residents of North Miami Beach by using proactive team approaches to timely and innovative interventions in community problems and to be known locally, regionally, statewide, and nationally as an innovative and progressive leader in providing community problem solving.4

This shows the evidence of the agency’s progression from the first community policing unit to the modern NSI. Within NSI, the Crime Prevention, Community Policing, and Code Compliance Units all contribute to this vision.

  • The Crime Prevention Unit creates a safer community by developing pro-active approaches for crime. This unit incorporates and encourages education, involvement, and communication with citizens and businesses in the community.
  • The Community Policing Unit develops long-term solutions for community issues. This unit builds relationships, provides conflict resolution, and addresses quality of life issues.
  • The Code Compliance Unit coordinates the long-term solutions established by the Community Policing Unit and the city through code enforcement of residents and business owners.

These three units combine to “aggressively prevent and reduce crime and address quality of life issues.”5 Within each of these units, separate activities and boards assist with the successful mission of the agency. For example, the Citizens Patrol, which was established in August 1981, provides on-the-ground eyes and ears in the community by the community. These volunteer members patrol the city and assist with non-criminal issues such as parking enforcement, traffic, and general patrolling for suspicious behavior. This program allows the residents of North Miami Beach to receive valuable training while heightening the partnership between the police and community.

Another creative program that the NSI has conceived is the NSI Community Policing Cadet Program. This program brings forth the spirit of community policing and allows recruits from local police academies to volunteer their time to gain experience in the field. Police academy cadets train in community policing, crime prevention, and code enforcement as well as learn the basic agency policies and operational goals. These cadets patrol the city for quality of life issues, offering a valuable service—providing free services to the agency! This unique program is currently in its infancy but is still developing into a great benefit to the community. NMBPD gains free personnel while the cadet gains problem solving experience in the field, which creates a win-win for the community.

Additionally, NMBPD has personalized policing for their community by hiring a Haitian Community Liaison Officer to coordinate and interact with the Haitian immigrant community on crime and quality of life issues. The liaison, and the community policing, crime prevention, and code enforcement officers, have all been crossed trained in various disciplines to create a more intuitive officer.

As great as the NSI team sounds, it is important to consider the impact that the team is having on the community. For 2010, the NSI has addressed 1,202 community concerns within a 22 neighborhood area, with 713 successfully resolved issues. This is nearly a 60 percent resolution rate, and with a team of 10 officers, this becomes even more impressive. With its willingness to learn from other agencies, adapt its services for the community, and establish creative budgetary strategies, NMBPD has developed a unit that improves the quality of life citywide and builds relationships with the residents that at the end of the day, demonstrates a community policing success story.

-Nazmia Alqadi
Program Analyst
The COPS Office

 

1Singh, David. 2001, April. “Community-Oriented Investigation at the North Miami Beach Police Department.” Bulletin From the Field Practitioner Perspectives. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance.

2 Ibid., 1. p. 7.

3 Neighborhood Services and Inspections. 2011. North Miami Beach, FL: North Miami Beach Police Department. http://www.citynmb.com/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7BBFCEB719-ECC6-48D4-9C7E-59072DD1D863%7D

4 Ibid., 3.

5 Police Services. 2011. North Miami Beach, FL: North Miami Beach Police Department. http://www.citynmb.com/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={641EA603-0F3E-4F3C-91FE-63C3A43D7C07}

 

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