Is Crime Up or Down in Coral Gables? Yes.

One of the most contentious issues in Thursday’s Coral Gables Mayoral Candidate debate was about whether crime was up or not. Since at the end of the day this is a factual question, I thought I would try to get to the bottom of it. Here’s where I looked and what I found.

The most recent data I could find on a quick visit to the FDLE crime data web pages was for an earlier period, January – June 2012. There it shows a 6.5% increase for Coral Gables crime. If that is a six-month gain, then annualized it would be at at 13% rate as Commissioner Ralph Cabrera said in the debate and as has been claimed in anti-Cason mailers.

As an experiment I called the Coral Gables Police Department to get a copy of their crime data. I got shunted around a bit, but ended up with a public records clerk who took down my request for total crime numbers 2000-present at six month intervals (thus comparable to FDLE), and violent/non-violent breakdown. He told me it could take 2-4 weeks to respond to my request because they are very backed up. I asked if I could be treated like Press and get an answer before the election.

Eventually I ended up speaking to Officer Dean Wellinghoff, the Coral Gables Police Public Information Officer, who very quickly pointed me to a video of Acting Police Chief Scott Masington testifying to the Commission in December 2012.

I would suggest that for full context you play Item F-4, which is Cabrera’s set-up, and then H-2, which is the Chief’s testimony. The Chief’s presentation includes charts with a 5+-year comparison. According to the Chief’s testimony, and from what I was able to see from the fuzzy images of his charts, violent crime is quite low and generally stable, and usually involve parties known to each other. Robberies (which are distinct from burglaries) are declining. Assaults are more or less stable. Residential burglaries were up, but started to decline in June and were way down in the later months of last year; commercial burglaries are down. Larceny (simple thefts, including shoplifting), is maybe up a tiny bit. Vehicle burglaries (stealing from cars) are also up – although the Chief says the cops caught the guys behind at least 20 of the car burglaries in November. Auto theft is up. Vandalism is down.

I am not completely sure what to make of this. The bottom line total number is stability, or maybe a tiny decline. In a literal sense, though, both Cason and Cabrera are telling the truth: crime was up 6.5% in the most recent period covered by the FDLE data, which if you annualize becomes 13%. On the other hand, if you add in five more months of data, as the chief does in his December testimony, the total picture looks a lot less bad. The uptick in vehicle burglary and auto theft is largely counterbalanced by lower levels of other crimes. Given he’s using the more recent data, though, it would seem Cason has the better of the factual argument assuming the two data sets are comparable.

One other thing that comes out clearly from the H-2 video is that the Commission, at least by the end of a long hearing day, really is factionalized and is sort of dysfunctional. Plus, the City Manager really is out of line making political statements from the dias designed to undercut Commissioners. No wonder they don’t like him. And it’s likely mutual.

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7 Responses to Is Crime Up or Down in Coral Gables? Yes.

  1. I really appreciate you work and keep sharing such a nice informative information.Thanks

  2. Maria Anderson says:

    It is reliable “hear-say” from PD contacts that I was told that Acting Chief Masington was heavily coached by Mr. Salerno for several days before the December meeting. I didn’t see it personally, but the way he evaded my questions (given to me by police officers) made it pretty clear to me something was not right.

    • Just me says:

      What’s wrong with coaching? Seriously. If you mean he was lying, then say so. If you mean that someone helped him prepare to put his best foot forward, how is that wrong?

  3. Jimmy says:

    Are you really that Nieve to think he was going over the crime data with a long tenured officer now chief because he wanted to make sure he had the numbers right? Yeah, no coaching to twist the truth there at all.

  4. Dennis Lefebvre says:

    >> If that is a six-month gain, then annualized it would be at at 13% rate

    This is incorrect. Consider the way percentages are calculated. The 6.5% increase is based on comparing total crimes reported in two six month periods. 1,156 vs 1,085. (1156/1085=1.065=6.5% increase). Changing the comparison to two twelve month periods would increase both the numerator and the denominator of the calculation, and the percentage change might be smaller, greater or about the same.

    If Mr Cabrera has data to support the 13% figure he should have published the precise source the first time he made the claim. More important, this is a superficial way to measure crime, it lumps everything from murder to auto theft into a single number.

  5. Patricia Sowers says:

    Thnx for your articulate reporting on Tuesday’s forum, giving those of us unable to attend an idea of how each candidate performed. My only concern was your comment on Pat Keon and how she appeared to be “overly cautious.” This is not the Pat Keon I know. When our children were old enough for Salvador Park she decided it needed to be restored and made safer. With babies in tow, she pushed hard for the commissioners to do the right thing. When she decided later that the War Memorial needed to be expanded and modernized and accessible to every citizen, disabled or not, her activism was relentless. I remember driving her to her husband’s office to copy a huge stack of papers to be presented later that evening to the commissioners. She was tenacious and ultimately successful. She has always been transparently ethical and concerned about all children, not just her own and demonstrated this in her push to provide a crossing guard for children crossing US#1 & LeJeune on their way to and from school. This may seem a small accomplishment in the world of politics and probably not listed on her CV but it’s huge for the of kids still crossing today.
    Our children are grown now and our grandchildren play at Salvador Park. Maybe she was quieter than usual at Tuedsay’s forum but we should remember this is a woman driven by an innate passion to always do the right thing, someone who has proven herself for over 30 years to anyone following CG politics. She rarely takes full credit for any positive changes in our city and instead insists that it’s easier to say “we” and not always “I.” No one, she insists, can make things happen all alone- moving people to action is the best type of leadership and the only one that really works. Hands down, Pat knows how to do this.

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