The office walls are spartan, without a single decoration, but there is plenty of paper – books about policing, binders, reports. A giant calendar near his computer.
There’s an engaging smile, a hearty handshake. Warmth might be the first thing you might notice about Jason Younes, Key Biscayne’s new interim police chief. But he’s all business.
Younes, a deputy chief, is running the department while the search continues for a permanent successor to the 17-year tenure of Charles Press, who retired last month.
Younes, who turns 44 later this month, hails from Allentown, Pa. His family moved to Hialeah when he was five, because his dad, a native of tropical Barranquilla, Colombia, wanted to get away from the cold.
“They came to visit, and they fell in love with Miami,” Younes said. His father was an aircraft sheet metal and engine maintenance worker for Aerothrust, starting there after the 1989 Eastern Airlines strike.
“It was a scary time. He was the main provider,” he recalled. “Luckily, he was able to find another opportunity and he jumped on it.”
Looking back, he says his father’s work ethic is something he’s tried to emulate, as well as maintaining strong family ties. Many summers, his family would return to visit relatives in Pennsylvania — and Younes finished the last two years of high school there, surrounded by his cousins.
The next big stop: the U.S. Army.
“That was my passion, the military. I always saw myself doing a military career.” But after three years’ service ended, he started taking criminal justice classes at Miami-Dade College and realized that law enforcement was where he belonged.
“The appealing factor was problem-solving. Understanding and serving your community.”
And so it was back home, in Hialeah, that Younes first put on a badge.
His experience has shaped the way he approaches problems. “I’ve always tried to find the little things that are going on so they don’t get blown up into big issues later on,” Younes said. “That’s the great thing about police work, you can be proactive.”
What’s the greatest frustration working as a cop in Key Biscayne? Younes didn’t hesitate for a second.
“Traffic.” Younes said. “I can’t say that we’re going to solve it,” he added with a slightly nervous chuckle.
Moving up through the ranks since 2004, he’s seen the impact of the island’s growing population and popularity, with both residents and millions of visitors continuing to strain the department. He said there were 6,100 service calls in 1993. It’s now risen to 24,000, 30 years after the Village’s incorporation.
Younes said three police officer vacancies on the force will be filled this month, which should allow a resumption of normal traffic and other operations. He’s also been working to finalize the new Village budget, which faces a September Village Council vote. Manager Steve Williamson is proposing to expand the force with beach patrols.
As for the new permanent chief, Williamson has launched a search process that’s expected to bring in dozens of applications with an October hiring goal.
But Younes says he won’t be applying for the top job.
“The manager has left that open for me. I’m not intending to,” noting he has two new twin one-year-old boys. He and his wife Jennifer — an FDLE officer whom he met at KBPD — also have two daughters.
“We have our hands full,” Younes said.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.