By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
In some segments of Dade County society, Roxanne Falco is a famous person. Stories are told about her, news of her whereabouts exchanged. But the talk is not complimentary, unless you consider sheer notoriety flattering. Roxanne Falco is a prostitute, and she is generally unwelcome in the part of town where she lives. In fact, the bluntly stated goal of many of her northeast Miami neighbors is to drive her out.
Roxanne Falco isn't just any prostitute; she has become a kind of symbol of the inner-city blight that community activists are fighting to keep off their streets and away from their homes. "Roxanne is a prototype of all the hookers on Biscayne Boulevard," says Ernestine Stevens, one of the most assertive of northeast activists, a woman who is not above chasing hookers off the boulevard herself. "Getting rid of her for me will be a symbolic victory. Her tentacles are like a taproot going down into our existence. People say prostitution is a victimless crime, but they should look at what it does to the neighborhoods. We're the ones who suffer the burglaries and violent crime, and the declining property values that come along with the drugs and the hookers. This area has to change -- it cannot thrive as a red-light district."
A few years ago Miami police, with input from the community, compiled a hit list of Biscayne's ten most troublesome hookers, visibility and number of arrests being key factors. Roxanne Falco was number one. By her own count, roughly corroborated by cops and court records, the 34-year-old prostitute has been arrested more than 400 times during her ten years on the street and has done three short stints in state prison on drug convictions. Besides the activities conventionally associated with prostitution, she is said to have exposed her breasts at a convenience store, mooned passersby from the back seat of a police car, and attempted to sell an Uzi to a schoolgirl. (She denies this last allegation.)
"Of all the prostitutes on the boulevard, Roxanne has been the most standoutish," comments Darrell Nichols, one of two Miami police officers who work out of the city's Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) office on Biscayne and 66th Street. "Maybe it's because of her appearance, I don't know. But she probably generates more [complaint] calls than anybody. For a lot of people in the community, it's become a personal vendetta. She is rather obnoxious. We've asked her time and time again, 'Listen, don't you understand you're not welcome? People don't want you here.'"
"Where would I go?" Roxanne responds in a girlish voice that always seems to have a cheerful lilt, even when muttering obscenities or bemoaning the latest black eye inflicted by her pimp. She has lived in northeast Miami longer than many of the homeowners who want to banish her, and she won't consider leaving her mother there, virtually alone.
Rowdy, bawdy, and unrepentant, she squeezes her five-foot-tall, 200-pound frame into a tiny spandex dress or a tank top and a miniskirt, and thrusts herself down the boulevard, swigging from a can of beer or bottle of cheap wine in a paper bag. Still, even as she tosses her long blond hair, bounces her ample (44DD) breasts, and cheerily greets her fellow Biscayne denizens, there is about Roxanne a sense of numbing inertia, the kind that seems invariably to overshadow a way of life that permits little in the way of reflection or regret.
Lately, though, Biscayne Boulevard's most notorious hooker has been forced to make a few adjustments. There's the unrelenting attention from police and residents, and the fact that, at almost age 35, she's not as resilient, not as hot a property as she once was. And since late September, prostitutes have been contending with a new enemy: Police suspect that a serial killer may be responsible for the murders of five hookers who frequented a stretch of SW Eighth Street. Prostitutes are rarely shocked by deaths in their ranks, whether by violence or disease, and few were worried after the first two murders. But as autumn wore on and more bodies turned up strangled or smothered on the residential roadsides of West Dade, they were forced to acknowledge the danger that is an inseparable element of their profession.
Miami police officer Greg Bavonese works the three-to-midnight shift, riding alone on a beat that includes the stretch of Biscayne between 38th and 87th streets. An intense and tenacious eleven-year veteran of the force, he keeps files on all known hookers in his area, a sort of personal memory aid that includes aliases, dates of birth, criminal histories, and photos. The hookers know Bavonese, his hours, his personality quirks (his quick temper; his requirement that they address him as Officer Bavonese, never just the last name; the fact that lying infuriates him), and they know how to avoid him -- stay off the boulevard.
On this night, as he maneuvers his patrol car around the potholes and disoriented street-crossers on Biscayne, he spots a tall, skinny woman mincing down the sidewalk. She's a newcomer to the boulevard, he notes as he brakes suddenly; he and some other officers had spoken with her a few nights ago on 79th Street. When he confronts her tonight, though, she's all innocence, denying in a thick Alabama accent that she's working as a prostitute in Miami. Bavonese barks at her to stay the hell off the boulevard. From the counter phone at a market across the street, he calls the Metro-Dade Police Department's criminal identification unit and requests that they run the Alabama woman's record. "Sure, she's not a prostitute," he quips. Sure enough, the computer search turns up a couple of local arrests for drugs and prostitution-related activities, which he notes on her newly created file card.