Miami police are in the midst of an undercover crackdown on crime in the public housing project Liberty Square in the hopes of deterring violent crime.
Operation Perseverance began last Wednesday, and police say they have already made 31 narcotics arrests, 14 gambling arrests, and 4 prostitution arrests at the 750-unit development on NW 12th to 15th avenues and 62nd to 67th streets.
"The only way to catch a violent offender that shoots somebody is to sit there and watch them shoot somebody. Obviously, we would not allow it to get to that point," Maj. David Magnusson told HuffPost Miami. "Our goal is not to have to catch the offender in the first place, because we turned Liberty Square into an area that the offenders know better than to come into to wreak havoc."
Magnusson runs Operation Perseverance through Miami Police's Tactical Operations, which includes crime suppression, gang, tactical robbery, and felony apprehension team units.
"We're trying to change the mindset there," Magnusson explained. "Little things like prostitution, gambling, congregating and drinking in public -- all that is like ingredients in a cake. If you didn't have these ingredients, you wouldn’t have half the problems you have there."
Just last month, two teens were shot by an AK-47 in a random drive-by in Liberty City and at the end of last year, there were 13 shootings in 2 months. A 42-year-old father of five who was fatally shot was already in a wheelchair, paralyzed from a prior shooting.
Magnusson points out that gun-related violence in the area is much higher than reported: "We often hear about homicide in the area but there are plenty of shootings where they miss or where the victims don't die because Jackson Memorial Hospital is so good."
As for the repeat offenders, "the vast majority don't live in Liberty Square. It's like an invading army," Magnusson describes.
Through Operation Perseverance, Miami police are trying to make Liberty Square uncomfortable for violent criminals.
"Let the thugs beware, we're not going to stand for them running around like this is the Wild West and shoot indiscriminately. It's unacceptable."
Police are cracking down on traffic stops, because when drivers don't have licenses, vehicles can be searched and weapons found.
"Then people start to get concerned and think, maybe we shouldn't be driving to this area," Magnusson told HuffPost. "And if they don't drive, where are they going to put their AK-47?"
Although the amount of robberies in Model City has already dropped by half this month, Magnusson is aware that offenders will just move on to another vulnerable area. "It's like water. You can change the form, but you can't make it disappear."