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FBI: Violent crime highest in Opa-locka

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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/local/10014842.htm

FBI: Violent crime highest in Opa-locka

According to the FBI's annual report, Opa-locka had 633 violent crimes -- robbery, rape, assault and homicide -- in 2003, the highest rate nationwide.

BY TRENTON DANIEL AND TIM HENDERSON

[email protected]

Opa-locka had the highest violent crime rate of any U.S. city with more than 10,000 residents last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Monday.

The north central Miami-Dade city of 15,238 residents had 633 violent crimes in 2003, compared to 461 in Palm Beach County's Belle Glade, a community of about the same size, according to the FBI's annual report.

Opa-locka had six homicides and 19 rapes last year.

The FBI classifies robbery, rape, assault and homicide as violent crimes.

This is the first year the FBI has released national figures for ranking cities.

But the state of Florida has reported Opa-locka as leading the state the past 20 years in violent crime. Once, Homestead was briefly higher in 1998.

Many cite the city's monetary problems, which resulted in stretching the police force too thin, as the reason for the high crime.

Two years ago, Tallahassee declared the city to be in a financial emergency.

Crime has long been a perennial concern in the impoverished city of 4.2 square miles where armed robberies are almost a daily occurance, car jackings are not uncommon, and drug holes abound.

In some cases, crime appears out of control. In a local apartment complex, the management hired a group of Guardian Angels, the red beret crime fighters from New York, earlier this year in a bid to curb criminal activity after a security firm allegedly failed to do so.

And just this month, a suspected gunman hid inside a Catholic school in Opa-locka, prompting a police evacuation -- captured on television -- before he was caught.

Police Chief James Smith said he had only received a report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Monday and was not aware of the FBI's annual report.

''I haven't seen their report. I can't comment on something I haven't seen,'' Smith said Monday evening.

Commissioner Timothy Holmes disputed the FBI's claims on his city.

''We don't have murders and shootings every day in this city,'' Holmes said. ``We can get out and walk on our streets, and we're going to continue to get out and walk on our streets.''

A leader of a homeowners association said the high crime rate in the city where unemployment is high and drugs are widespread came as no surprise to him.

''We have to close the crack houses and heroin houses in our city,'' said Terence Pinder, vice president of the Westside Homeowners Association and a city commission candidate.

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It's basically part of the same ghetto that stretches from Overtown, just north of Downtown Miami, NW to Carol City and Miami Gardens on the county line. Opa Locka just happens to be it's own small municipality, which is why it gets the percentages. I'd argue other parts of miami are worse, but not wholly contained in one municipality.

It's probably 8-10 miles north west of downtown, close to hialeah.

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Ouch, poor Opa Locka. All I know about Opa Locka is that they have a nice Tri-Rail station, since that's the only part of the town I saw. Hopefully all of the "less-than-stellar" parts of Miami can improve.

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