Miami-Dade County's murder rate dropped in 2021, going against trends in other major cities across the country where murders rose to levels not seen in decades.
Figures released by the medical examiner's office this week showed Miami-Dade had 249 murders in 2021, a decrease of 41 from 2020, or about a 15% drop.
In comparison, Chicago had just under 800 murders in 2021, the most in the Windy City since 1996.
"To put it in comparison, Philadelphia, Chicago, 500, 800 homicides in 2021 alone. So Miami-Dade really is bucking the national trend," said Alex Piquero, a professor of criminology at the University of Miami.
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Piquero said the Miami-Dade Police Department's "Operation Summer Heat" contributed to the decline.
The operation, which began in June and involved dozens of law enforcement agencies, was designed to take guns off the streets and targeted violent people and violent areas of the county.
Officials said the operation led to more than 3,300 felony arrests and over 1,200 guns recovered.
Of the 249 murders in 2021, 202 were from guns.
"It starts and ends with guns," Piquero said. "The lethality of guns when they're used in altercations is much higher than a fist or a knife. So it's violent places, violent people and guns off the street."
Piquero said another factor is that immigrant cities like Miami traditionally have lower homicide rates.
"A lot of people think that's because immigrants have more of a buffer zone, they come to this country wanting to follow the law and to make a better place for themselves and a better life for themselves," Piquero said.
Piquero said there's hope that the murder rate will continue to go down in 2022, and that there won't be another tragedy like the killing of 3-year-old Elijah LaFrance, who was fatally shot at a birthday party in April.
"Miami's had a lower homicide rate than normal and a lower gun issue than normal. Let's just hope and pray that we don't have to keep seeing 3-year-old kids shot and killed at birthday parties," Piquero said. I really believe that the impetus, the seeds are in place going forward."