MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – On a steamy night in late April, Miami Gardens police officers on bicycle patrol were heading to reports of a shooting, when they heard a house alarm blaring.
At Northwest 196th Lane and 33rd Court, officers dismounted, drew their weapons, and surrounded the house.
A neighbor told officers he saw a man trying to break into his house, so they suspected a criminal could be inside this adjacent one, too.
After a police K-9 was called to clear the home, it was determined the suspected burglar was gone. The homeowners arrived, relieved that officers had responded to the house so quickly.
That was just another night for the bike unit, which some Miami Gardens residents said they never even knew about.
It’s a team of cops on two wheels that saturates areas after crimes are committed, and patrols areas during the day to get to know the neighbors.
According to Capt. Joseph Nargiso, there are 64 bike-certified officers in the department. Their goal is very different than of those who work road patrol or undercover details.
“It's totally opposite. What we do here is we're very visible with the community,” Nargiso said.
Occasionally Chief Delma Noel-Pratt gears up to ride, too.
“When we're on our bikes, it's open air. We get to see people closer. Face to face,” she said.
Miami Gardens crime has made headlines in the last several weeks.
There have been two fatal shootings this week alone. A toddler was reported attacked and beaten inside a recycling bin the week before.
And there have been two high-profile homicides, including that of well-known grandmother Danette Simmons. A suspect who lives nearby was recently arrested.
FDLE records show overall crime has increased in the city from 2016 to 2017, and again in 2018. More recent numbers for the last half of 2018 and 2019 were not yet available from the state.
Byron Johnson, who normally rides with the motorcycle unit but is also bicycle-certified, said he prefers to be on two wheels to be more visible. He thinks he can make a better connection with people in the community in order to fight crime.
He likes that people can see his face.
"If the people in the community don't know who you are, how can you expect them to come tell you anything?" he said.
The official website for the department is www.miamigardenspolice.org