Crime spies sought for Entertainment District
By Risa Polansky
To cut down on the crime they say is stifling commerce in the Media and Entertainment District near the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, area business owners have asked Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency for a grant to kick start a security initiative.
The proposed SPi program, pronounced "spy," is to focus on security, parking and identity, said Eugene Rodriguez, owner of Big Time Productions, 59 NW 14th St.
Area property owners "can't even open a business without being broken into," he said.
"We've reached a point where we (the private sector) can't do anything else."
A grant of $268,000 to $400,000 could ensure two to five uniformed security representatives on the streets 24 hours a day for a six-month pilot period, said Jim Milford, partner with Verasys, a risk mitigation and security company planning the project in tandem with business owners.
The proposed district runs from Northwest 14th Street to Northwest 10th Street and Biscayne Boulevard to Third Avenue.
Area proprietors shared woes at a redevelopment agency meeting this week, citing everything from thefts to tire slashings.
It's imperative the security program begin before Art Basel Dec. 1, Mr. Rodriguez said, as the event draws thousands of people — many of them tourists — to the area.
To fast-track the program, city commissioners, who make up the redevelopment agency board, directed Executive Director Jim Villacorta to present a resolution at the Nov. 9 commission meeting authorizing the grant weeks ahead of the next agency meeting.
Should the money be awarded then, the program could be up and running in time for the international event, Mr. Milford said.
Depending on the amount of the grant, he said, the program could provide, at minimum:
7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays: two to three security ambassadors
3 p.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays: two security ambassadors and a supervisor
11 p.m.-7 a.m. weekdays: three security ambassadors and a supervisor
Weekends: four security ambassadors and a supervisor
Security representatives would not be armed, Mr. Milford said.
"The whole idea here is to work very closely with the police and assist in pedestrian and vehicular traffic and to promote a safe and clean environment," he said. "When they see an issue or confrontation, they'll have radios and coordinate with the police."
Though uniforms would be modeled after the Downtown Development Authority's ambassador initiative, Commissioner Tomás Regalado insisted agents be clearly labeled as security personnel to entrench an enforcement message.
Mr. Milford said the hope is to recruit and train "qualified people who are from the area" to assume the fulltime security positions.
Verasys is also headed up by former Miami Beach Police Chief Donald DeLucca.
Mr. Rodriguez said the Media and Entertainment District now is "basically reflecting the pattern of South Beach 10 years ago," and he hopes to see a similar revival.
Commissioners also requested a resolution authorizing a grant for a community outreach and crime prevention program in neighboring Overtown.