Citing an increased population, rising calls for service, and officers who are “stretched thin,” Police Chief Frank Sousa won approval Tuesday to hire two sworn positions later this year. The Village Council had already authorized the budget line, but instructed the administration to hold off until new Chief Frank Sousa could review operations
The additions will bring the number of sworn officers to 38. But because of three current vacancies, Sousa is actually in the process of hiring five officers. The cost of the positions had already been factored into the 2022 budget, which passed on a 4-3 vote last year. The department’s budget allocation rose from $8.2 million to $8.9 million, an 8% increase.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, approval was unanimous — but not after familiar challenges from Council Member Ed London, who has long maintained the department is too big for the island’s size and asked for a neighborhood policing approach.
“I don’t want a cop riding in a car with tinted windows,” London said. “We are a tiny village. Big city people like you guys, you can’t help it. You think like big city people.”
Sousa responded: “We did look at it. The fact is, the population has grown. Everybody wants the same thing, the sense of security.”
The addition of the officers comes after an uptick in youth crime during the summer and the arrest of five people for an alleged armed robbery earlier this year.
The public safety budget is by far the biggest driver of the Village’s operations expense. To make his case, Sousa said Key Biscayne has a lower ratio of police to residents than several other municipalities, including Bal Harbour, Surfside, Pinecrest and Coral Gables. He said call volumes had risen from 6,100 at incorporation to more than 24,000 today, with an average of four million vehicles entering the village each year, according to a police traffic analysis.
Sousa also said the department is aggressively looking at enhanced street lighting and surveillance systems. He expects some lighting could be installed quickly, but video requires more careful design so that officers can access camera data quickly when needed, which will require a separate budget item for 2023.
He said he is not pursuing facial recognition technology at present.
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.