CBS News reported this week that the city of Miami has gone seven weeks for the first time since 1957 without a homicide, since the COVID-19 PANDEMIC in Miami shut down.
It’s been 63 years since that has occurred according to the Miami Police Department. Most crime rates nationwide have been dropping as people honor stay-at-home orders and stay inside to protect their families, their loved ones from illness, hospitalization and even death.
As a former prosecutor in Miami Dade County from 1982 to the beginning of 1986, this is very welcome news to me having prosecuted violent crimes through the Cocaine Cowboy days of the mid 80’s when my colleagues and I would be called to murder scenes multiple times a day. In 2018 the Murder rate in Miami was 9.72 per 100.000 population. That translates to about 51 homicides a year which was a new low for Miami in 2018. During the Cocaine Cowboy days, Miami Dade would routinely rack up close to 300 homicides a year. Those were wild times. Obviously the decline in the murder rate is because of a number of factors including but not limited to better crime fighting techniques, the use of surveillance cameras and the fact that residents no longer look at the police as the enemy, but as team players who are trying to protect society. Not only has the murder rate for the last seven weeks been zero largely because of the Coronavirus, but also because crime numbers in Miami are down across the board. According to the Miami Herald burglaries in 2018 were down 11% from 2017, robberies were down 17%, assault and battery was down 6% and the only crime category that rose are sex offenses which jumped 14%. And while headlines of Mass shootings like the Parkland murders and other mass murders are still fresh in everybody’s mind, thanks to a concerted effort by law enforcement, crime rates across the board have been dropping.
While the Coronavirus has taken lives in Miami, the silver lining is that lives have been saved because of the precipitous drop in the homicide rate. While the pandemic and the stay-at-home order are credited by the Miami Police Department for this drop we must also salute the high visibility of our police department in keeping us safer as a community.
As a miami criminal defense attorney and trial litigator and resident of South Florida this has been music to my ears. As a prosecutor I got to see the devastating effects of violent crime. Families being torn apart losing husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children. Those homicides have changed the lives of so many people in the family unit. When this type of crime affects a family the scars created live with the individual family members until the day they die.
There aren’t many good things to say about the current lockdown and pandemic, but the drop in the homicide rate and the overall crime rate is clearly good news for all of us in the Miami Dade community and all of south Florida.
Even though violent crime, robberies and burglaries are down, corona virus fraud related crimes are on the rise. These are times when people need to be extremely diligent because criminals will take advantage of the fear we are all feeling as the Coronavirus pandemic spreads. The worst in our society will try to capitalize on these fears and our panic especially as it relates to white collar crime, as it relates our most vulnerable citizens. At a time when our elderly are frail and most vulnerable, these citizens should be left alone from the constant barrage of phone calls and scams pedaling fake cures, magic potions, snake oil scams and financial crimes. The burden on law enforcement has clearly shifted because of the pandemic. Everyday life as we knew it has essentially stopped, most everyday crimes have been declining, and however reports of virus related fraud type crimes in Miami Dade and Fort Lauderdale are on the increase.
There have been reports of people stealing much needed PPE such as masks, gowns, protective eyewear from those healthcare professionals who need it the most. Additionally, there have been people who have been shouting their political agendas in public who falsely claimed that they have tested positive for Covid-19. Trying to scare people with no rhyme or reason.
The US Attorney’s Office has stated categorically that threats or attempts to use Covid-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated. A few of our religious leaders and politicians have been claiming falsely that certain vitamins and products will work as a cure that should be bought by the public when these products, vitamins and minerals have not been cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration.
People need to be careful while isolated at home, to protect themselves from fraudsters using the Covid-19 pandemic in Miami to scam people into buying products that have not been approved by the government and have no medical value at all. As of the writing of this blog, there is no magic pill or vaccine. So the people of Miami Dade and Broward County need to be, very careful not to fall for any of the scams that are out there.
Remember your personal information is extremely valuable to criminals. These people will think of nothing of trying to defraud our most vulnerable.
The US Government has set up a fraud hotline which is 1-866-720-5721. If you believe you are the victim of fraud or a scam or that someone is trying to perpetrate a fraud or scam upon you call the hotline number above. You can also call our office at 305-576-0244 and one of our staff people will guide you through it and get you to the right resource, free of charge.
Be safe, stay healthy and be careful.