By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
The city's Nuisance Abatement Board has had some impact on prostitution on the boulevard. A few motels have been temporarily shut down for on-premises drug sales and prostitution. Most recently the Seven Seas and the Shalimar were ordered to close for six and nine months, respectively; the Economy Suites received a warning. To close a motel, the City Attorney's Office must present proof of three police undercover operations (i.e., stings) that resulted in at least one conviction related to drugs, prostitution, gambling, gangs, or noise. (If no convictions resulted, the required minimum is seven such incidents.)
North of 36th Street, the population of prostitutes has dropped, according to police, residents, and the hookers themselves. Many now work west on 79th Street, farther south on Biscayne, or have moved east to Miami Beach or out to the strip of cheap motels on SW Eighth Street.
Of course, there are always the newcomers, like the fourteen-year-old runaway Bavonese recently stopped, and the prostitute from Alabama. Girls who have yet to be admonished for addressing him by his last name and who don't quite understand that he is serious about chasing them off the boulevard.
It's Friday night, the weekend is beginning, and look at her.
Roxanne's upper cheekbone is mottled purple; so is the area around her left eye. Both fleshy white arms are spotted with bruises, worst at the elbows. Pop, her pimp, has been hitting her again. Today it was a soup ladle. Which means tonight she won't be staying in the motel room they share. She'd like to find shelter in her mother's room at a boarding house in Little Haiti.
Outside the chainlink fence that surrounds the two-story home, which once must have been glorious but is now patched and overgrown, Roxanne calls loudly for her mother. "If I can't stay here, I'm in big trouble," she murmurs, hanging her head. "I can't go back there. I really should get another home. For three years he's had me trapped like this." She adds almost forlornly: "But he can be good."
After a few minutes, a barefoot woman in shorts and T-shirt emerges from the vicinity of the porch, rubbing her eyes. She walks down the cracked concrete pathway to the padlocked gate, but she can't open it. "I can't get out," she tells her daughter. "That asshole [landlord] won't give me the key."
Gloria Falco works part-time cleaning one of the motels on Biscayne. Her short, silver-blond hair is uncombed, her mouth swollen on one side, locked in the grimace of an abscess. "Do you have an aspirin?" she asks. "There's no 'lectric up there. Can you believe it, I'm paying this guy $60 a week and they go and cut it off. What am I gonna do?" She clutches her forearms, rubs as if she's cold. "I'm telling you, it's not going to work," Gloria says nervously when Roxanne asks to stay the night. "People are going to call the cops and I'm going to lose my house. I can't believe you left your good dress back there," she chides.
"Better than an ass-beating," her daughter replies.
Roxanne says she doesn't report the violence because the police have told her they can't arrest Pop unless they see him hitting her: "They don't care; they think I deserve it." That isn't true, the cops respond; charges can be filed if a weapon is used -- including a ladle. Moreover, if a woman is living with her attacker, he can be arrested on a domestic-violence charge (a felony) if she shows signs of being beaten. It's difficult to discern whether Roxanne is ignorant of this or if she's too jaded to believe the legal system can help her, or if she simply doesn't believe it would deter Pop, who Greg Bavonese says has been arrested frequently enough to have lost any respect he might have had for the system.
Gloria Falco has been kicked out of the last two places she lived because she let Roxanne stay with her. Both times, when police learned where Roxanne and her friends were entertaining johns while Gloria was at work, they warned the building managers about the statute against harboring or condoning prostitution on the premises. Gloria calls the police behavior harassment, and she is bitter about it. "They have no right to run you out of your own place," she complains. "They'll tell you they understand and they won't do nothing, and then they turn against you. How am I supposed to get by like this?"
Just across the narrow street, several neighborhood kids are gathered around an ice cream truck. Their laughter and shouts mix with the overamplified calliope sounds coming from the van. Roxanne greets two teenage boys who glide past on bikes. She knows them because they sell her crack.
When the owner of the house, a tall, middle-age Haitian man, appears from around the corner, no one says a word, but he knows immediately why Roxanne is outside the gate. "I cannot let you go in here," he warns. "You're going to make she lose her room."