The lowest recorded crime rate for the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus in 38 years saw fewer than 200 incidents reported in 2012, a 26 percent decline from the previous year that UM Police Chief David A. Rivero attributes to factors such as better trained officers, scripted patrols, and cooperation from the UM community.
Of the 181 incidents documented last year, most were property crimes such as bicycle thefts, and even in that category UM saw a drop in its crime rate. Almost no violent crimes occurred, making UM one of the safest private universities in the South.
“Our officers are better prepared and more aware of crime than ever before,” said Rivero. He noted that UMPD officers regularly meet to discuss crime patterns and always begin their shifts on scripted patrols—an intelligence-led police concept that places officers in areas where incidents are most likely to occur.
“We analyze everything from all angles, looking at anything that might help prevent crime—even looking for streetlights that are broken and getting them repaired as quickly as possible,” Rivero explained.
A former major with the Miami Police Department before taking the reins of the UM police force in 2006, Rivero said UMPD also practices a strategy called crime prevention through environmental design, a technique in which physical surroundings are changed to deter criminal activity. “It involves everything from trimming hedges to installing certain signage,” said the chief.
But it is a 600-camera monitoring system, which will soon increase to 800 cameras, that Rivero calls the “biggest jewel” in his department’s efforts at keeping the campus safe. The cameras have been installed in areas near bike racks and parking garages, on the tops of buildings, outside and inside campus facilities, and in other locations, allowing UMPD to monitor virtually the entire campus.
Many of the cameras are high-definition devices, capable of picking small details from long distances. A camera mounted on top of UM’s Richter Library, Rivero noted, can read the license plate numbers of automobiles parked in the area of the music school.
Other measures credited by Chief Rivero for lowering the incident rate and keeping the campus safe include: security guards and student patrols to support UMPD’s 27-member force, a team of five investigators, compressed shift schedules that put more officers on patrol, and a policy of requiring some officers to walk and ride bikes on their beats, making them more accessible to the UM community.
“I tell parents that I wouldn’t send my kids here if I didn’t think this campus was safe,” explained Rivero, who has a daughter graduating from UM in May and another enrolling as a freshman next fall. “This is one of the safest campuses in the South, and our officers care. We provide a law enforcement service you get nowhere else.”