The Coral Gables Police Department says long-term trends prove crime is down despite a recent spike in burglaries, automobile thefts, and purse snatchings.
Ruben Arboleda is accused of sneaking into breaking apartments in Coral Gables to steal items ranging from jewelry to laptops. On at least two occasions, he did it while the victims were sleeping, police say.
"Oh wow, yeah, that's scary," said University of Miami student Rianna Hidalgo.
Hidalgo told Local 10's Christina Vazquez she had wondered why a Coral Gables police officer knocked on her door asking if she had heard anything. Hidalgo said the officer didn't mention there had been burglary reports at her complex and the apartment building just behind her. She also never received a crime prevention alert from police following Arboleda's arrest.
In an arrest affidavit, police said a burglary task force was created "due to a recent spike in occupied and unoccupied residential burglaries" at the two apartment buildings at 1500 Venera Avenue and 1515 San Remo Avenue.
None of the tenants who spoke with Local 10 on Wednesday said they had heard a word about it from police. When Local 10 visited the buildings on Wednesday afternoon, some tenants on the ground floor, including the resident who lives right next door to one of the burglary victims, felt secure enough to leave their windows open. Arboleda's arrest form states that he entered the apartments through an unlocked door on two occassions.
Arboleda's arrest follows a string of high-profile, mostly property crime-related events in Coral Gables, including thefts at the Village of Merrick Park and cell phone store robberies near Miracle Mile.
During an armed robbery at the Biltmore Hotel, gunmen approached security through the loading docks and made off with $15,000. The heist was not made known to the public for about two weeks. Hotel guests were never in harm's way, police say.
The series of cell phone and wallet grabs at the Village of Merrick Park include one incident caught on camera at the valet stand outside Neiman Marcus.
At least two of the cell phone stores in the Miracle Mile area have been targeted by a group of crooks. In both cases, witnesses told police the getaway car was a dark-colored, possibly black, Dodge Ram.
"Not recognizing we have a crime problem in our city is a disservice to the citizens," said Commissioner Ralph Cabrera.
He's been sounding an alarm about the steady increase of some crime categories since last December, when he told his fellow commissioners in a meeting, "that same property crime can turn into a violent crime very quickly."
Cabrera shared letters he has received from concerned citizens. He asked Local 10's Vazquez to meet him at a home along S Greenway on Thursday. He told her the home, "in the heart of Coral Gables," had recently been burglarized.
City Manager Patrick Salerno says the discussion is merely Cabrera playing politics.
"This is an election year. Okay, that's what this is," said Salerno.
Salerno said it was "irresponsible" of Cabrera to make crime an issue when, in his opinion, it is not. One can safely walk the streets of Coral Gables at any time of day or night, he said.
Cabrera is running for mayor in an April election and has been critical of the city's current administration.
"Even though it seems like it's a campaign issue, it's not; it's a governance issue," said Cabrera.
It is no secret Cabrera and Salerno have a contentious relationship. Their, at times, fiery exchanges during City Commission meetings have become legendary.
Local 10's Vazquez pulled Coral Gables crime data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The statistics are from "Uniform Crime Reporting" data, a program conceived in 1929 to better collect and archive reliable uniform crime statistics from departments nationwide.
The FBI is in charge of reporting nationwide results. In Florida, the FDLE is tasked with collecting the data from the state's municipal and county agencies, which they then submit to the FBI.
|2011||2012||Increase from 2011 to 2012|
The figures on crime in Coral Gables, which the Coral Gables Police Department submitted to FDLE, show burglary, auto theft and purse snatchings rose in 2012. This follows a total index crime percentage increase of 16.8% from 2010 to 2011.
Salerno points out that any city, on any given year, will have some crime categories that show an increase. Crimes trend up and down over time. Also, the numbers reflect increases in property crime. Violent crime rates in Coral Gables are historically low.