Conditions at the Opa-locka Police Department are so bad the city can barely keep its officers employed. After a debilitating citywide budget cut of 20 percent, ten law-enforcement positions were eliminated and every officer on the payroll took a 10 percent salary reduction. As the Miami Herald reported in September, some cops are wearing ripped uniforms and driving donated cars with more than 100,000 miles on them. The police headquarters building is so rife with leaks and mold that officers have moved their operations to City Hall.
Some of that might explain why, in the first half of 2018, crime in Opa-locka rose a whopping 403 percent. Uniform crime reports released Monday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement compare statistics from the first six months of 2017 to the same time period this year. Both violent and nonviolent crimes in Opa-locka appear to be increasing:
- The number of reported robberies rose from 10 to 52.
- Aggravated assaults increased from 21 to 140.
- Burglaries jumped from 16 to 80.
- Larcenies (which include pickpocketing, shoplifting, bicycle theft, smash-and-grab vehicle thefts, and some other property thefts) grew from 65 to 296.
No murders or rapes were reported in the first six months of 2017, but there were four murders and four reported rapes in the first half of 2018, according to the report.
Police Chief James Dobson did not respond to a request from New Times to discuss the data. While crime appears to have risen precipitously from 2017 to 2018, the statistics for the first half of 2018 actually aren’t much different from the first half of 2016 or 2015. Andrew Axelrad, an attorney for the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association who has been negotiating the city’s contract with officers, says this year’s statistics could reflect that police have been more accurately reporting existing crime levels.
“The dip last year, to me, is kind of more questionable,” he says.
What has worsened over time is Opa-locka’s clearance rate, which has dropped every year since 2014. Axelrad says he is troubled by the city’s clearance rate of 8.2 percent, which means over 91 percent of crimes were not solved.
“The clearance rate is what strikes me as being extremely low for the crimes we’re talking about,” Axelrad says. “I think that certainly is a function of a lack of personnel and just running from call to call, being in reactive mode in response to calls for service as opposed to actually being able to investigate and solve crimes.”
Officers have also been arresting far fewer people. In the first half of 2015, Opa-locka Police made 3,489 arrests. During the same timeframe in 2016, officers arrested 2,048. But in the first half of 2017, there were only 154. For the first six months of this year, there were 840.
The crime report for all of 2018 won’t be available until the middle of next year, but news stories paint a grim picture of the city’s progress: In October, a driver was shot and killed in a road rage incident, while earlier this month, a man was gunned down by his coworker at a car wash. And on Monday, a pregnant 33-year-old woman was fatally shot while sitting in a car with her 13-year-old daughter, who was also injured.