Move over hippies and bohemian artists, Coconut Grove has something new to be noted for: A low crime rate. In fact, the Grove has been named one of the safest neighborhoods in the nation.

The website, Neighborhood Scout, conducted research of FBI data from 17,000 local police departments and concluded that the Grove is the safest community in Miami and among the top 29 nationally on their list of safest neighborhoods.

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“Isn’t that awesome!” declared Miami police Cmdr. Jorge Colina, who directs the law enforcement effort in the Grove. “We were thrilled but not surprised to hear it.”

Jamie Wasser, a former Grove resident, was surprised but pleased to learn of its new, low crime designation.

“Many years ago, the reason we moved out of Coconut Grove was because it was not one of the safest places in America,” Wasser said. “Maybe we’ll move back!”

Colina credited a very involved citizenry and pro-active policing for the Grove’s low crime rate. He said that in the entire month of September, there was not a single robbery in the Grove. “That’s never happened,” Colina said. “Ever since they’ve been keeping statistics, since 1981, there has not been an entire month without a single robbery.”

Grove merchants, through their Business Improvement District, have helped keep crime down by paying to put extra police officers on the street as well as private security personnel.

A cutback on some of the partying in the Grove is also credited with helping to reduce crime. Bars used to be open until 5 a.m., but urged on by residents and business owners, Miami Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff led an effort to scale back club hours.

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“I think limiting the serving of alcohol – stopping at three o’clock in the morning – has made a big improvement for the Grove,” said William Rivas, general manager of Cocowalk.

Tourists Hazel Loucks and her husband, Don, said they were pleased to learn they were in such a safe place.

“We love hearing that. Since we’re going to be here until Monday, I love hearing that,” Hazel Loucks said. “It’s good to know we can walk around at night and be safe.”

Luis Del Vorrella, a familiar figure in his brightly-colored information booth on Grand Avenue, cheered the low crime designation.

“I think it’s great!” said Del Vorrella, who is known as the Coconut Grove Ambassador. “It’s been a long time in coming. We have a great place here, great restaurants and shops.”

Grove merchants said they hope word of the community’s safe neighborhood ranking will get around.

“I love it,” said Felice Dubin, owner of the Bookstore In The Grove on Virginia Street. “Come on down, enjoy the best kept secret in Miami.”

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Source: The Miami Herald, Wallet Pop blog, Coconut Grove Grapevine blog