On America’s National “Night Out Against Crime,” when neighbors come together to meet local police officers and to pledge to look out for each other, some of Miami’s neighborhoods that needed them most had no anti-crime meetings.
The largest night out gathering in South Florida was in downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park. There was a very large police presence but it was difficult to find many people who live nearby and showed up specifically for the event. Most were tourists or random passersby.
Except Nicole Santiago. The 15-year-old got kicked out of her home by her single mother and is living in a court-ordered residential facility called “The Bridge” with caregivers. And it's turning her life around.
"I'm thankful,” said Santiago. “I appreciate it a lot 'cause without them and like “The Bridge,” a lot of kids would be without homes and on the streets and stuff so I'm thankful for them and what they do."
Santiago's an example of the rough and tumble that comes with some neighborhoods.
Jeff Glasko, one of the Miami police department’s main crime fighters downtown, is proud to remind people that crime downtown is dropping as more and more city dwellers live here.
"An event like this will actually bridge the gap between the community and the police department," Glasko said.
But there was no “Night Out Against Crime” neighborhood meeting tonight in Miami's Liberty City, one of the neighborhoods that could really use extra tools to fight crime.
There have been half a dozen shootings in recent weeks here. Neighbors are sick and tired of it, and so are hard-working police.
Compare that to Parkland, with the lowest crime rate in Broward County. Police here could hardly remember the last murder here. It is a world away from Liberty City.
Parkland is family land. Neighbors know each other, and their kids. Where a big concern is not driving too closely to the grocery truck and where the Publix manager hands out free treats. The Parkland Commons Publix store has had just one shoplifter…ever.
"They really focus on family and family activities,” said Parkland Police Chief Paul O’Connell. “And we see a little piece of that with the 'Night Out Against Crime.'"
"We're in a great community,” beamed Julie Ives, a Parkland mom. “And we're really happy. When you can have three or four neighbors looking out for you, that's what it's all about."
And their “Night Out Against Crime” brought them even closer and probably made them even safer while the neighborhoods like Liberty City sorely needs those events too.