Crime

Someone Is Breaking Into Miami Cop Cars and Stealing Guns

Miami Police Department has a problem with vehicle burglaries.
Miami Police Department has a problem with vehicle burglaries. City of Miami Police
In what has become a recurring theme over the past few years, the Miami Police Department is, once again, struggling with theft and missing property. According to internal documents obtained by New Times, the department recently warned its officers about valuables left inside their cruisers, because four were burgled between July 6 and 24.

Among the missing items: a police vest, a baton, a radio, ID cards, and, most distressing, "assigned guns." An internal bulletin sent July 26 states:
Between the dates of July 6, 2019 and July 24, 2019, there have been 4 incidents in which Miami Police Department vehicles were broken into. Police equipment such as assigned guns, a police vest, a baton, a radio and identification cards were stolen. Three of the incidents occurred outside of City of Miami jurisdiction and one incident occurred in front of the main Miami Police station.

Police officers are reminded to be mindful of equipment left in vehicles.

Spokespeople for Miami PD did not immediately return messages from New Times today. But this is not the first time Miami cops have lost potentially dangerous items. In 2017, blogger Al Crespo broke news that 11 decades-old police revolvers had mysteriously vanished from a police storage locker. Despite the fact that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement opened a probe into how the guns could have been spirited out of MPD custody, no culprits have ever been identified.

Separately, in 2018, MPD fired two civilian employees after unnamed police property also went missing from a storage unit. At the time, department spokespeople confirmed the alleged culprits placed police "property items"  — not "evidence" — into their cars and drove away with them. MPD refused to say what had been stolen or whether the police department recovered the items. A third employee involved in the scheme resigned before being fired.

Some news of the recent spate of car burglaries has trickled out to the media: This past July 24, WTVJ reported that "brazen thieves" had been caught on camera stealing from an MPD cruiser. After a neighbor confronted the two men, the suspects reportedly fired shots at the man but missed.

Of course, cops are discouraged from leaving guns unattended in their cars for this exact reason: For a desperate burglar, there's a high probability that an unattended police vehicle might contain a weapon or other sellable valuables. In 2013, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said he was forcing his department to store rifles in gun safes after a single burglar had amassed, in the words of the Palm Beach Post, "a small arsenal of weaponry by breaking into cars from five law-enforcement agencies."

And in a more recent, infamous 2015 case, José Inez García Zárate accidentally shot and killed Kate Steinle in San Francisco after he found an unattended Bureau of Land Management officer's gun, which someone had stolen from the officer's cruiser.

Miami PD did not say how many guns have gone missing this month and did not yet confirm whether any officers will be disciplined for allowing their firearms to be stolen. This post will be updated if new information becomes available.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.