Civic Education: A Commitment Shared by All.

 

By: Diana Bello Aristizábal

Para leer en Español

DORAL, FL – Doral is a city made by and for all of us. Despite this, a significant amount of residents fail to respect the law and cohabitation rules nor do they treat neighbors with consideration, which affects the quality of life, and creates discomfort in the 68 thousand people who live here according to the Census from 2013.

Given this concern, we ask ourselves how to establish a climate of respect, and live in harmony taking into account that each family has its own beliefs and customs influenced by the country of origin, the upbringing, the culture, and continuous variables.

It is not an easy task. However, there is an implicit commitment from all citizens to improve this city and help bring peace of mind with their own actions. To broaden our understanding about this, we spoke with the Doral Police, a few representatives of the community, and with the Mayor’s Office.

What are the opportunities for improvement?

If we take as a reference to the conversations and interactions that take place daily on our city streets, we can determine that the lack of education while driving is the main issue on which we must work.

Rey Valdes

In this regard, Rey Valdes, Public Information Officer of the Doral Police, explains that the city’s geographical location, just 1 mile from the airport and 7 from Downtown Miami, has a high impact on vehicular traffic.

“In addition to the more than 60 thousand Doral residents, there are 100 thousand more people who pass by the city every day to reach their destinations, which increases the volume of vehicles,” says officer Valdes.

As a result of this influx of vehicles, sometimes there is chaos on the road aggravated by those who commit traffic offenses, such as exceeding the speed limit, passing a red light, missing a stop sign, parking in areas that are not allowed or making turns that are restricted.

Another problem identified is that a vast majority of people do not activate car blinkers to change lanes, which increases the chances of a crash happening.

On the other hand, there is a growing concern about people’s habit of texting and driving at the same time. “No message is important enough to risk your life. Currently, a law is being under evaluation to make this conduct a primary offense,” adds Rey Valdes.

What do residents have to say?

Maria Cristina Cerice

For Maria Cristina Cerice, who works in the accounting area of a construction company and is a resident of Doral since 2002, missing the stop sign is the number one problem in the city.

“People only respect the sign when they see police officers nearby, but it is impossible for the authorities to be present everywhere. Each person should moderate his or her own behavior,” says María Cristina.

Elizabeth Canchola, an active member of the community, shares her point of view because she thinks that the Doral Police Department and the Code Compliance Department are not meant to “punish” residents.

“We are all adults who should know how to behave properly. The police can not play the “nanny” role and watch over everyone. I think that for the number of people we live here, we have a sufficient police force, but it is each person’s responsibility to comply with the rules and report those who fail to do so”, says Elizabeth Canchola.

María Cristina Cerice is concerned about speeding in school zones and within condominiums. “Where I live, the maximum speed allowed is 30 miles per hour, and many do not respect this rule and impatiently honk to those who do,”, she says.

Elizabeth Canchola

Another issue that worries both of them and that they see daily is improper parking. Many people park their vehicles in areas designed for emergency vehicles or for disabled people without having the corresponding permit.

About this, it should be clarified that there is a responsibility on the part of the citizen to know the rules of driving before entering a vehicle, which includes knowing in which places it is allowed to park. Being new in the city should not be an excuse.

Another problem is rooms rental within properties, something is forbidden in the city. “Many rooms are rented without asking for a background check, which can compromise security in condominiums. Also, when several families live in the same unit, more cars circulate in the streets, and there is more congestion,” says María Cristina Cerice.

The authorities job

In response to the complaints about Doral, the Mayor, Juan Carlos Bermudez, stated that the city “was created from the bottom up,” which means that residents have the responsibility to take care of this place, not just the Mayor or elected officials.

Juan Carlos Bermudez

However, from the Mayor’s Office, several initiatives have been undertaken with the purpose to educate people, such as the program You Don’t Do That Here, which consists of a series of ads passed on radio, television and web pages that intend to send messages about how to properly behave in the streets.

Also, there is also the program Mayor Citizens Government Academy in which residents learn about how the government works, and the Citizens Police Academy, an educational tool to share with citizens the daily struggles the police faces that we can all help reduce.

But, beyond creating educational programs, what else is the government doing to control those who do not follow the rules? According to the Mayor, since 2016 the administration has fulfilled its promise to be more strict when it comes to issuing traffic citations.

According to statistics, in the period between 2014 and 2016, 19 thousand 515 traffic citations were issued, while between 2016 and 2018, there was a significant increase since 52 thousand 485 were issued for moving violations. “With this, we want to send the message that we hope people follow the rules,” says the Mayor.

When inquired about why some people think the government is not strict enough, the Mayor replies that it is a matter of perception, as he has received comments from neighbors who thank him for having being fined, because for them it “means that the police is doing a good job.” He has also received messages with complaints about the administration’s over-strictness.

“We are doing everything in our power, such as putting red light cameras so that people do not miss stop signs, placing ads on the streets about not texting while driving, and cameras that recognize cars that have been associated with a crime,” says the Mayor.

The government has also worked on increasing fines for property owners who illegally rent rooms. In the four years before his arrival, 21 were issued, while 167 have been issued in the last two years. The Mayor’s office continuously monitors web pages related to realty rentals and sales to track advertisements about illegal rents.

“People learn when they have to pay or gain points in their licenses. Regardless of this, we need a cultural change towards respect, organization, and compliance with rules,” states the Mayor.

To make this happen, he invites citizens to report incidents in which the law is broken. “If you see something, do something about it and call our complaint line anonymously,” suggests Juan Carlos Bermudez. Those who wish to do so can contact 311 or call 305-593-6680.

About speeding during rush hours, Rey Valdes explains that officers start working from 6 in the morning, others take turns at noon, and there is a significant deployment of officers between 4 in the afternoon and 7 in the evening.

“On average, the Doral Police issues between 400 and 500 fines per week on speeding charges and other traffic violations, such as not respecting signs,” says Rey Valdes.

They also work on controlling those who park their vehicles in restricted areas. According to the Mayor, a few months ago the officer of the month was a policeman who issued more than 100 fines for parking in spaces intended for disabled people.

Lastly, there is a concern about street racing reported in some places. “I have not received notifications about this, but we invite those who have seen it make a report, and we will make sure to send a policeman,” says Juan Carlos Bermudez.

Rey Valdes confirmed that in the last six months two fines have been issued for this offense. “We cannot have a police officer permanently parked in areas where incidents have been reported, but if we receive complaints, we will evaluate them and try to identify infractors,” he says.

To report rules violations incidents, people must contact the County’s non-emergencies number 305-476-5423 or call the Doral Police department directly at 305-593-6699.

 

 

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