MIAMI - In recent public meetings, lawmakers behind a bill that would allow destination casino gambling have supported the statement that the new resorts would provide more jobs which in turn would lower South Florida's crime rate.
Inherent in that argument is the assumption that South Florida is experiencing an increase in crime due to high unemployment and a weak economy.
But is that true? According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting statistics and two South Florida law enforcement officials, crime in Miami and Broward Counties is down.
Just last week the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce held a forum about destination casino resorts.
At that meeting, a representative for Las Vegas Sands told chamber members that adding more jobs would help tackle crime. It was a point echoed by the two lawmakers hoping to bring casino gambling to Florida.
"I am not surprised that I hear the argument that more jobs means less crime ", said Miami Police Major Delrish Moss, "I love that argument, the problem is jobs and crime are not necessarily linked. A lot of people we deal with were not looking for jobs in the first place."
Moss added, "In all the years I have been in law enforcement I've never seen a true link between jobs and crime. Of course the argument can be made that if you don't have a job your next option is to commit crime but the people that we deal with don't have 401Ks to lose, they weren't working, their job was crime. So bringing more jobs in the community won't necessarily change the mentality of people who are criminals."
Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti agreed with Moss.
"I've seen nothing definitive that says, yes casino gambling is going to increase crime or it will decrease crime. I don't think the numbers justify a position either way," Lamberti said. "Most people expect when the economy goes bad crime is going to go up. Crime in South Florida has actually gone down."
Lamberti said the only uptick they've seen is a slight jump in metal thefts such as copper aluminum and gold.
He said gold chain snatchings have increased as the price of gold has gone up.
"Last year in a three month period, June, July and August we had zero chain snatchings, that same three month period this year we had 47 and I think that's definitely tied to the economy."
Despite those niche thefts Lamberti said the overall crime rate, including violent crime is down.
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