MIAMI — A 25-year-old mom who clerked at a check cashing store. A former head cheerleader at Booker T. Washington Senior High. A middle-aged man who worked mowing lawns with his friend. A distraught U.S. Air Force veteran.
These are the latest victims in a particularly bloody week in South Florida where gunshots have left at least eight people dead and more wounded.
The mom, Clairemathe Geffrard, was shot execution-style in an armed robbery near Fort Lauderdale. The ex-cheerleader, Calvin Milton, Jr., 27, was gunned down in a drive-by in Overtown. Roberto Morejon, in his early 50s, and his ex-girlfriend Yordanis Montoya, 36, were found dead — an apparent murder-suicide — in his Little Havana efficiency Friday morning. And the veteran, Catawaba Howard, 32, fired at Miami-Dade police, who shot back and killed her.
The shootings have devastated friends and families and signal a seasonal summer spike in crime. Law enforcement officials also say they are seeing more firearms on the streets.
“This is real bad,” said Jesus Gonzalez, 82, who had been renting out an efficiency to Morejon in Little Havana. “That makes every citizen living in Miami afraid to even go out and buy something. I go out on my own, but I don’t feel safe in the city.”
Officials say the shootings do not mean there is a crime wave in South Florida. But they do point to a general consensus among experts: Violent crime often spikes during the summer.
Hector Garcia, director of the School of Justice at Miami-Dade College, spoke of a commonly accepted theory: “The hot summer and short tempers lead to more violence.”
Unemployment and adolescents out of school may also contribute to the mayhem.
“When you have all these factors together, it does tend to increase people’s tendencies toward violence,” Garcia said.
In 2005, Miami-Dade saw its murder rate hit a low - 171 murders that year, a rate of seven murders for every 100,000 residents.
Over the last few years, that rate has crept up. In 2010, the murder rate in Miami-Dade was nine for every 100,000 residents. That’s still much better than 1981 when Miami-Dade’s murder rate hit a peak of 33.5 for every 100,000 residents, said Bill Bales, an associate professor in the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University’s, a top-ranked department in the country.
“You’re much less likely to be murdered in Miami-Dade now than 20 years ago. That’s the good news,” Bales said. “There’s certainly concern about the recent trend.”
While violent crime has decreased in Broward County, Sheriff Al Lamberti said his deputies have seen more crimes involving guns, such as Tuesday’s armed robbery that left the clerk at the check cashing store dead. The shooting occurred early in the morning in a busy area off a major thoroughfare with plenty of pedestrian traffic. The gunman came out shooting at police, and a bullet struck a bystander across the street.
And as individual crimes become more violent — at times taking innocent lives — those cases will draw attention and community concern, he said.
“Those strike at the heart of the community when you hear’’ about those brazen kind of shootings, he said.
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