By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
Currently, many cities around the country are experiencing a rise in petty theft of items such as clothing, accessories or car parts. Doral is not exempt from this reality, and therefore, it’s essential that the community serves as a support to prevent them.
This reality has been seen locally at some stores and pharmacies that have taken measures never seen before, such as placing alarms and security locks on some products like laundry detergents, fabric softeners, or clothes to keep them safe from being stolen.
Petty theft it’s considered to be the act of taking someone else’s property without exerting violence of any merchandise with a value below $750 dollars. Of these, in Doral, there have been 176 shopliftings (the most common misdemeanor) between January and September 13, according to Doral Police numbers. So far this year, there are already 18 more cases than in 2021, when 158 were registered in the same period.
But shoplifting is not the only scourge facing the city, as there have also been 34 thefts of residential packages, six of bicycles, three of tires, and 69 of car tags and decals.
According to the Doral Police, this scenario stems from the fact that in 2022 the economy was reactivated. “A large number of businesses closed in 2020 due to the pandemic, and in 2021, although many more were open, they had different schedules. That is why, when this year is compared with the past one, there’s an increase,” says Captain Leonel Ochoa.
Also, the increase in petty theft has been influenced by the expansion and location of the city because although it has around 60,000 residents, more than 100,000 people drive past through it every day since it’s located in the center of the county. As a last factor, the Doral Police highlights the economic situation that the nation is going through with the increase in inflation that creates opportunities for crime.
In this regard, the Police reminds residents that stealing something, no matter how small it is, can leave a lifelong impact. “Something like taking a $20 piece of clothing can affect the offender the day he or she applies for a job or wants to rent a property because a background check is usually conducted for those things,” says Captain Ochoa.
In addition, all offenses reported by the community, whether small or large, are investigated. “As long as there is a victim of a crime who presses charges, we will always open a case in which we will use what is within our reach such as videos, photos, witnesses or the technology we have to track car tags that enter and leave the city, that’s how we’ve found many criminals.”
Petty theft can be fought in a team
Decreasing the numbers of petty thefts registered by the city is a goal that does not depend only on the Police but also on the community. Together they play a key role in keeping the streets free of crime.
As for the role exercised by the Police, efforts are being made to increase the number of officers guarding the city, and a strong job is being done with commercial stores.
“Previously, we had between 80 and 90 police officers while now we have 162, and we are trying to reach 200. In addition, we have a good relationship with stores that we frequently visit in order to provide recommendations so that they are safe, and two months ago, we organized an operation with undercover police officers and in uniform after receiving a complaint from a mall,” adds Captain Ochoa.
On the other hand, the Police has monthly meetings internally to discuss which areas are the most problematic and what strategies can be carried out to help them, which are later put into practice and monitored to determine whether or not they are effective.
“This is an everyday discussion, and we always plan for the future. For example, right now, we are preparing for October, November, and December by working out different surveillance and visibility tactics.”
Along with the above, from the Neighborhood Resources Unit, there is constant communication with the community that has been key in the cases that have been resolved. In fact, in big part, Doral remains today one of the safest municipalities in Miami-Dade County due to neighbors.
However, many misdemeanors go unpunished because sometimes they don’t go beyond a post on social media by someone who claims to have seen or been a victim of petty theft, a viral video that captures one or more people committing a crime, or a complaint shared on a social gathering.
All these resources, although valid because they bring awareness, don’t translate into a closed case, nor do they help to hinder the work of organized criminal groups that are the ones that most concern the Police and of which some arrests have been made.
“If they don’t ask us for help, it’s impossible to conduct an operation because there is private property that we cannot enter. As much as we have police officers in different places, there are internal situations we have no way of resolving if neighbors don’t warn us,” says Capitan Ochoa.
But help is not only essential from store owners or managers but also from customers who are encouraged to call the police if they happen to witness a petty theft, even if the store takes no action.
“Even though only store owners can press charges, if we get a call, at least we can visit the place and find out what’s going on,” explains Captain Ochoa.
It should be noted that both business owners and customers are not recommended to try to stop thieves by force. If there is an individual who is trying to escape or is aggressive, the suggestion is always to call the authorities.
“In petty theft, people are usually not armed. However, there are cases where they are or there may be a confrontation in which someone gets hurt. For this reason, we ask citizens to contact us so that we can address the situation and start an investigation.”
But the community can also do a lot to reduce other types of theft. For example, regarding stolen packages at residential properties, people can ask a neighbor to keep them safe while no one is present to receive them.
Against bike and auto parts theft, it would help if residents used locks and alarms consistently. “In Doral, there are many closed communities, and people think that bars stop a criminal, but it’s not like that. Also, we must bear in mind that most crimes are not committed by Doral residents but by people who come from outside,” says Captain Ochoa.
For this reason, even if you are in a guarded community, you must always take care of and secure your belongings to avoid crimes of opportunity. This is precisely the message behind the Doral Police’ ‘Lock it or Lose it’ campaign.
“Many cars are left without an alarm in Miami, but if you have a good one, it will be able to detect movement the moment someone approaches, and the vehicle will start to make a sound.”
If you have witnessed a crime or have seen suspicious individuals roaming an area, you can send an anonymous message describing the situation to: firstname.lastname@example.org