Last night about 70 Belle Meade residents showed up at Legion Park to hear the details about a proposal to fence off all access to Belle Meade on NE 6th Court. Currently, pedestrians and bicyclists can enter and exit Belle Meade through NE 72nd Terrace and NE 72nd -77th Streets. Motor vehicles can only access Belle Meade via NE 76th Street.
The majority of the residents voted for the complete fencing off of all entrances on NE 6th Court. There were about 6-7 residents, including myself, that were willing to find some common ground and voted for an amendment that included fencing, however the fencing would have unlocked gates to allow for public access. The total cost of this project was about $15,000 and the initial burden of this cost, as well as maintenance of the 6 ft fence, would fall on the homeowners. Public access on these streets would effectively cease to exist, but the City of Miami would continue to provide all public services to the community (Fire, Police, Public Works, etc.). Belle Meade would not become a private community.
Although most of those present at the meeting support fencing, a majority of Belle Meade homeowners is still required to sign a petition in support of fencing for it to become a reality. Once the petition is signed by 60%-70% of the homeowners in favor of fencing it will be presented to the city of Miami Commissioners for a vote and final approval.
Commissioner Sarnoff was present at the meeting as well. After listening to the homeowners he told the audience that if he lived in the community he too would want to fence off NE 6th Court. He then proceeded to show support by offering to pay for the new fencing with our tax dollars. Additional police patrols, an effective deterrent against crime, was not really discussed.
The Miami Police Department Commander for the Upper East Side was also present at the meeting. He told the residents that he believed fencing would help to deter crime in the area, but acknowledged it would not eliminate crime all together. He also pointed out that the area had seen a reduction of crime year-over-year.
Although I do respect the Commander’s comments, everything I have researched has shown that gated communities are not safer than non-gated communities. In other words, defensive planning does not work. Communities that have transitioned from non-gated to gated initially show a drop in crime, however after about a year, crime levels return to pre-gating levels. Below is an excerpt from research that was conducted in Miami:
The city of Miami reports that “some forms of crime such as car theft are reduced, at least immediately after the streets are closed. However, data indicates that the long-term crime rate is at best only marginally altered” (Blakely, 1995, p. 1).
You can read more about the research that Blakely conducted here.
You can also read this article from the well respected Next American City that discusses the social implications of gated communities on the surrounding neighborhoods. This article goes on to say:
In truth, there is no evidence that homes in gated communities maintain their value better than those in non-gated ones. Nor is there evidence that gated communities are safer.”
One of the best forms of policing is self-policing by residents. Erecting a fence will destroy the walkability of our community, thus decreasing self-policing by residents. Walking an extra half mile to get to Jimmy’s or another nearby establishment is easier said than done. The elderly, persons with disabilities, our housekeepers, and parents with strollers will all suffer if a fence is erected. So will the businesses on Biscayne Boulevard.
The MiMo Business Improvement District should not support the fencing of Belle Meade. Businesses within the MiMo district will be harmed by the lack of pedestrian accessibility from Belle Meade. Walking an extra ½ mile for some residents will become a deterrent to engage with businesses on Biscayne Boulevard. Once potential MiMo customers from Belle Meade are in their cars, they can easily choose to shop or eat at a non-MiMo establishment which is more accessible by car and has parking easily available.
I am a new resident and want to make Belle Meade as safe as possible. I respect the opinions and views of my neighbors and share the same safety concerns as all of them. Even with the guard gate on 76th street, defensive planning has already proved to be ineffective. More defensive planning will most likely show the same results. A majority will decide how Belle Meade proceeds and my hope is that together we can find a solution that may actually deter crime.
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