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Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sat, 13 Jan 2001 16:58:36 -0800 (PST)


Published Wednesday, January 10, 2001, in the Miami Herald

2 commissioners concerned about anti-crime plan

Concerned that the Miami Police's planned war on petty crimes may trample on
some people's rights, Miami City Commissioner Arthur Teele said Tuesday he
will ask to meet with Chief Raul Martinez.

``There are some issues that at first blush give me cause for concern, and I
want some clarification,'' Teele said.

Commissioner Johnny Winton said he, too, wants more details on what the
crackdown will entail, and he wants the public notified before the
enforcement begins in full swing.

``I want to support the chief because I agree with his ideas that small
crimes left unchecked give way to big crimes, but the devil is in the
enforcement,'' Winton said. ``And whatever the department is going to do, we
need to sell it to the community first.''

Police are training officers to make arrests on municipal code violations,
such as loitering, littering, drinking in public, panhandling, being in
possession of milk crates and shopping carts, and even having a bicycle
without a bell, all arrestable offenses.

Jamaine Lamont Pace, 22, of Overtown, spent a night in jail last week for
the bike without a bell charge, before a Miami-Dade County judge dismissed
it the following day.

Martinez said the Jan. 3 arrest should not have been credited to his
initiative, which he said is not yet being followed throughout the
department. Officers are still being trained, and he does not know whether
the officer who made the bicycle arrest had been trained, he said.

In a memo dated Monday and obtained by The Herald, he detailed aspects of
the crackdown. The measure calls for police to aggressively attack small
crimes, preventing them from becoming major ones.

Commissioner Tomás Regalado said he supports strict enforcement of codes.

``I don't have a problem with it at all,'' Regalado said. ``Minor crimes are
the one thing that run down neighborhoods. If the police chief wants to
squash them, that's fine with me.''

It's not fine with everyone.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Miami said Tuesday it is bracing for
complaints from residents who may be hauled off to jail.

And Martinez, inundated with calls Tuesday, said he had to frequently
explain his ``minor crimes initiative'' before he had time to put on the
finishing touches.

``A little old lady leaving Winn-Dixie with a shopping cart is not going to
be arrested, but we might arrest a suspicious person seen leaving the scene
of a crime with a shopping cart and charge him with that violation after
questioning him,'' Martinez said. ``If an officer needs to get a drug dealer
off a street corner by arresting him for something like no bell on bicycle,
he can. We are leaving it up to the officers' discretion.''

Such wide discretion troubles Teele, who fears enforcement will be colored
by economics. ``I commend the chief's efforts, but I'm concerned about First
Amendment issues,'' Teele said.

``In Coral Gables or South Beach, to drink a beer in public under an
umbrella in an outdoor cafe is fine; but in a poor neighborhood, to do the
same thing outside a grocery store could get you arrested.''

Copyright 2001 Miami Herald