Hialeah Does Not Believe in Volunteers

Well, at least the mayor doesn't. Just ask Carmen Caldwell, jobless Crime Watch specialist.

Police Chief Rolando Bolanos sees it differently. "That's this month's reason," the chief says, "and last month it was something else. All I know is he says she had too much power in the police department. But Carmen never gave orders here. She would take complaints from citizens and pass them on in the way of memos. It wasn't costing us a penny to have her here and we were getting about 50 hours a week from her in return, so the city was making out like a bandit."

Martinez also moved the community relations/Crime Watch program to city hall, where it now will be run by police Detective Mike de Jesus. That concerns Crime Watch officials. "The whole idea, especially in an area like Hialeah, is that the program be run by one of the citizens, not a police officer," says Ellen Johnson, president and cofounder of Citizens Crime Watch of Dade County, "because there is this feeling that if you work with the police, you might be seen as a snitch. Many residents of that area come from Cuba, where there is this system of neighbors spying on each other, so it is very difficult to get people involved. The way to avoid that is to have one of their own to speak for them, someone like Carmen that they can trust. We were very happy with the job Carmen was doing, but it seems like the mayor felt she was exerting too much power. There is no doubt that the situation was politically motivated."

Caldwell first planned to continue coordinating the Crime Watch program out of her home, but has since taken a leave of absence and filed to run for the city council in the November elections. She hopes to exert what she says is real power by unseating one of the mayor's three council supporters. "I've always said, `You're either part of the problem or you're part of the solution,'" Caldwell proclaims. "Well, I've decided that to become part of the solution, I have to become part of the process.

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