MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) — Miami Beach City Commissioners signed off on a new $441 million budget Thursday night.
Some of the money allocated to the police department will go to beefing up the force.
“I’m very happy,” Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez said outside the commission chamber. “It’s the first time in a number of years, probably 4 years, that we’ve been able to enhance our budget.”
The budget allows for the hiring of about a dozen additional sworn officers. Chief Martinez hopes to have half of those officers hired and on the street in the next 3 or 4 weeks.
Martinez has only been the city’s top cop since November.
He said he’s pleased with his department’s progress over the last 10 months.
“It’s really the first time in over five years where overall crime is down,” Martinez said. “So we’re really excited about that. There’s still room for improvement.”
According to statistics provided by the police department, crime was down 4.97% on Miami Beach in the first eight months of 2012 compared to the same time last year.
Robberies were up 16.44%, but rapes were down 22.58% and aggravated assaults decreased 4.80%.
Overall burglaries (residential and commercial) were down by about 5%, but single family home burglaries specifically were up slightly, according to the chief.
That last figure is cause for concern for Commissioner Ed Tobin.
“Residential burglaries have gone up,” Tobin said. “We’ve got some alarming statistics on crime that we need to address. Unfortunately, we’ve not held our police department administrators to the standard that we really need to hold them to.”
Tobin said he thinks Chief Martinez could be doing a better job.
Chief Martinez says the department has made changes like assigning officers to specific areas of the city to help fight crime.
“Obviously I would love it if we didn’t have any crime on Miami Beach. That’s always our goal. But I have to be realistic,” Chief Martinez explained.
Commissioner Tobin thinks the crime rate is still too high.
“I want safe streets. That’s what I want to deliver to the public,” Tobin explained. “So when it comes to that, I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to deliver public safety.”
Commissioner Tobin said the police department left more than 30 positions vacant in order to fund overtime.
Police Chief Martinez said that figure is overblown, but in an event driven city like Miami Beach, overtime is inevitable.
He hopes the addition of more officers will cut down on the need for more hours.
At Thursday’s budget hearing, commissioners reduced the tax rate to $6.09 per $1,000 of a home’s taxable assessed value. Even with that reduction, the city manager said with current property values, homeowners could expect a slight increase in their tax bills.
The city’s unions are now preparing for what will likely be heated collective bargaining discussions.