By Trevor Bach
By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
Some of these murders involved drug disputes and other armed conflicts. But at least a few of those killed were, like Jensen, blameless victims. And yet none of these homicides has provoked the sort of outrage sparked by Jensen's death: the immediate cries of the national press and politicians, the $100,000 bounty offered by a car rental company, the million-dollar plans to erect new signs and dispatch more police. "We should be mourning the murder of any person equally, regardless of sex or race, and that's plainly not happening," says Johnnie McMillian, president of the Miami branch of the NAACP.
Reverend Baskin adds that he is most disturbed by the proposal to have police patrol the perimeter of high-crime (read: black) areas and to shepherd out tourists who appear to be lost. "What kind of message is that sending out?" the clergyman wonders. "That those left inside those areas are free to roam and do as they wish? What about those lawful citizens who live in these areas? What our leaders won't realize is that we are dealing with a wholesale loss of hope and compassion. You can't put a barricade around that."
The siege mentality has not been lost on those who live and work in Dade's sprawling ghettos. "We've all been victims of crime around here," says Ray Mandrell, part-owner of New Era Pharmacy, at NW 6th Avenue and 62nd Street. "My clerk just got her car robbed. What you got to do is give these boys some kind of program to get involved in. And not just sports, where they got a one-in-a-million chance of making it. We need something that teaches them a trade, making shoes or learning how to be an electrician. I'd rather pay a tax for that than for more cops." Mandrell, like other merchants in his neighborhood, can recite the predictable pattern of media coverage: Any time a prominent white person -- Dade County Manager Joaquin Avilo or newscaster Sally Fitz, for example -- is victimized, the crime in question becomes a cause celebre. "And if the crime happens in Liberty City," Mandrell observes, "that just throws a spotlight on this place."
The publicity, in turn, has the effect of further discouraging economic activity in Dade's inner city. It is an irony obvious even to fourteen-year-old Clint Clark: "They want to show tourists the beautiful Miami. What about the homeless people under the bridges? They ever show them that?"
Clark says anyone who commits a crime, particularly a heinous crime such as Jensen's murder, deserves harsh punishment. But he also demonstrates an understanding of the criminal mentality that has been all but absent amid the recent cacophony. "These kids who grab 'books, they bad. But they ain't all animals," he argues. "They need attention, like everybody else. And they don't get it from their mama or daddy. They probably don't get nothing. But here they are left to look at Air Nikes and all that A $150 shoes, shoes that make them feel like something. Where they going to get money? Even if they could get a job, they don't have the patience to deal with the manager. So they jack a tourist. What else is there to do around here?"
Reverend Baskin puts it succinctly: "If we want these boys to respect life, we've got to start respecting their lives."
Just 24 hours after Barbara Meller Jensen was murdered, a man named Bobby Banks was stabbed in the chest, reportedly after a botched drug deal. He was rushed from the Naranja Lakes area to a hospital, Community Health of South Dade. He was dead on arrival.
But most people know nothing about the Banks killing. It wasn't on the front page of USA Today. It didn't even make the local section of the Miami Herald. His family wasn't interviewed by Katie Couric on the Today show. And there were no press conferences by Lawton Chiles or Janet Reno. Police officials investigating the murder, the 109th this year, didn't appear on TV, promising the public that the crime would be solved within the week. Nor did local politicians pledge additional police protection in the area of the stabbing.
Bobby Banks was not a white, middle-class German tourist. He was a 30-year-old black man killed by another black man.