The City of Miami Beach (CMB) is a unique community that due to its tropical location experiences a significant amount of quality of life offenses, many of which are carried out by members of the homeless community. As a City who is compassionate towards providing a multitude of homeless services to this segment of the population, the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) remains committed through its Community Affairs Unit in always searching for a way to reduce repeat offenders and bring social services to those that find it difficult to obtain them through the development of innovative and positive community partnerships.
In response to the PCRC motions, and at the direction of Chief Clements, the Department researched neighboring jurisdictions that have implemented a Community Court program and drafted a proposal delineating what would be required to bring such a program to fruition in the City of Miami Beach.
The overall purpose and goal of the Community Court program would be to:
- enhance public safety in the community
- provide “wrap around” services contingent upon agreement to enter the program
- enhance the role courts can play in solving some of the main issues we have in Miami Beach with repeat offenders
The below information provides an overview.
What is Community Court?
Community Court is a collaborative effort of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, the City of Miami Beach, Miami Dade County, the Clerk of Courts, the Office of the Public Defender, the State Attorney’s Office, and several service and treatment providers, including behavioral health. It is an innovative approach to handling certain low-level misdemeanor crimes and violations of municipal ordinances and is designed to engage the community, help offenders and assist individuals in need of services and resources. It has as its principal aim the provision of alternatives to sending nonviolent offenders to jail.
What crimes are eligible for Community Court?
Quality-of-life crimes that affect communities may be eligible for Community Court. These include but are not limited to trespassing, disorderly conduct/disturbing the peace, public intoxication/open container violations, obstructing traffic, and aggressive panhandling.
Additionally, individuals with charges related to the violation of City Ordinances as well as minor Misdemeanor arrests could also be eligible.
It should be noted that criminal charges are not necessary for individuals to participate in the services and programs available at Community Court.
How does Community Court benefit offenders and others?
Community Court strives to link offenders to community restitution projects and on-site social services and treatment providers. The following services and resources would be available at Community Court:
- Services to address violations onsite
- Access to social service providers
- Veteran's services
- Social Security services
- Employment services
- Behavioral health for assessments and case management services
- Miami Dade County community service hours
- Care Resource medical care, housing, and supportive services
- Florida Highway Safety Motor Vehicles (DMV) identification services
- OIC of South Florida workforce education and training
- Second Chance Society supportive services for life events
- SunServe medical, housing, and mental health services
These benefits have shown to reduce offender recidivism in Fort Lauderdale, a key goal of the City and the Department.
The City will also benefit from offenders having to complete community service as a necessary component for any charged offense in lieu of incarceration.
What are the conditions required of those charged with a violation?
The conditions required of each individual eligible for Community Court will depend on that person’s unique circumstances.
Conditions always include completion of community service in lieu of incarceration for those charged with an eligible offense and may include mental health counseling and/or residential or non-residential substance abuse treatment.
Who manages the Community Court Program?
First, Community Court must be approved by the Chief Judge of Miami Dade County – Judge Bertilla Soto – via an administrative order.
Once established, the City of Miami Beach would hire a Community Court Coordinator (CCC) through grant funding or a budget enhancement.
The CCC will work closely with the City’s Homeless Outreach Program, the Police Department, court system and all the “wrap around” services specifically designed for this program and our City.
Tracking of Court Cases
Tracking of each court case related to quality of life, City Ordinance and minor Misdemeanor arrests would be closely monitored and tracked in addition to cases generated by the Department not related to any of the above offenses. Such tracking would include the disposition of each criminal offense.
Next Steps (in no particular order):
On December 21st 2020, members of the Miami Beach Police Department, CMB Homeless Outreach Unit, Community Affairs Unit, CMB Legal, Ft. Lauderdale’s Community Court Coordinator and Judge Barney of the 17th Judicial Circuit - Broward County, met to provide an overview and understanding of how to build a Community Court program. The next steps towards establishing a program in the City are as follows:
- Carry out a meeting through the City's Legal Department with Chief Judge B. Soto for official approval to start a program
- Apply for U.S. Department of Justice BJA Grant in the amount of $200,000.00; or
- Request this program be funded through a Budget Enhancement Request