South Florida residents meet with cops over coffee

MIAMI (WSVN) — A fast-food restaurant chain gave South Florida residents a chance to sit down and grab a cup o’ joe with police officers, Wednesday morning.

Twenty-one McDonald’s chains across Miami-Dade and Broward counties joined the program "Coffee with a Cop" in an effort to use coffee to help connect the community with local law enforcement.

In Liberty City, resident Ernest Kemp, who wouldn’t normally get the chance to have a discussion with the police officers who patrol his neighborhood, finally got his chance. In an open discussion, Kemp explained his concerns with some of the officers. "I think the crime over on Northwest 15th Avenue is out of control," he said. "I think that they can do a better job. I have been living in this area since ’09, and I have had four home invasions into my apartment."

"From the top up, from our chief all the way down, he has been addressing the issue as well," said an officer in response.

Area residents were invited to join their local police department to discuss issues in their community and to learn more about each other. This open communication with law enforcement is especially important to residents of Liberty City.

"We’re here to address the issues and concerns of the community regarding the recent, violent crimes that have been occurring in the area," said Miami Police Sergeant, Jacqueline Mesidor.

With an increase in gang violence, shootings, innocent people killed and witnesses too afraid to come forward, Mesidor, who has 27 years under her belt as a police officer, said the job has only grown harder. "We let them know that we understand your concern and rightfully so, but at the end of the day, in order to address an issue we have to know about it."

"I thought it was a positive attempt to reach out to the community," said Kemp, "To try to build networks and connections, so that if any crime ever does take place, they already have community members in place where they can get information from."

"Coffee with a Cop" was also a huge hit on Miami Beach, where a local McDonald’s was packed. "We met so many different people today with so many different concerns, whether they be positive or negative," said Miami Beach Police officer Ernesto Rodriguez. "Everyone came out and spoke about how they feel."

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Miami Gardens Police Department, also enjoyed coffee with their respective communities in Deerfield Beach and Miami Gardens. A Miami Gardens Police officer explained the importance of the event. "To actually show them that we are not the enemy," he said. "We are here for you. We are building bridges. We are having discussions about whatever they want to talk about."

"Coffee with a Cop," an organization launched by the Hawthorne Police Department of California in 2011, has now spread across North America, with cops and locals meeting at coffee shops and restaurant chains throughout the continent, including Canada. 

All attendees received a free, small cup of McCafé coffee, courtesy of McDonald’s. The chains, as well as other fast food restaurants and coffee houses around North America, hosted the events from 9 to 11 a.m.