Fears of COVID-19 infection may have emptied the streets of Miami, but criminals are not taking advantage of the situation. Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina says that not only has violent crime plunged in the city, but Miami has not reported a homicide in six weeks. That hasn’t happened since 1964.
Colina himself tested positive for COVID-19 last week and is at home recovering. The New York Times reports (you’ll have to scroll down for the story) that 20 of Miami’s 1,400 officers are sick. That’s actually a pretty low infection rate when compared to a place like New York City, where at least 1,500 NYPD officers have become infected out of 36,000 officers. Earlier in April, one out of six NYPD officers was out sick.
One difference appears to be that Colina gave his officers very different instructions. He has strongly discouraging Miami police from interacting with people, both for his officers’ safety and the safety of city residents. From the Times:
“I literally told them, ‘I don’t care if we don’t issue a single ticket summons in the month of April,'” he said. “‘I don’t want you to unnecessarily interact with someone if you don’t have to, for your safety and theirs.’ And the amount of people who have been impacted financially is absolutely something that we should be mindful of.”
Meanwhile, the NYPD appears to be out in force continuing heavy-duty policing of low-level “quality-of-life” crimes even as COVID-19 spreads through the department and the city’s jails. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has declared that he, unlike Colina, will not be reducing enforcement.
Perhaps he should. Miami’s de-policing decision is not leading to anarchy. Colina says the city is seeing an uptick in car break-ins and that he worries about domestic violence incidents going unreported. Nevertheless, crime overall in Miami is down (and has been trending downward for years), and the community isn’t any less safe as a result of his officers showing restraint.