By Chuck Strouse
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On a balmy night in May on NE 11th Street, not far from Club Space, Riptide witnessed a skinny girl in a green dress arguing drunkenly with her beefcake boyfriend. Gripping a Gucci purse in one hand, she clocked him with the other. He picked her up caveman-style and carried her off.
Nobody else seemed to notice. But that was then.
For the past two months, thanks to a new infusion of about $343,000 in taxpayer money, the Miami Police Department has been sending extra officers to Park West and Overtown on weekends. Their assignment: Watch the areas around the clubs.
Last spring, after a string of car break-ins, owners of clubs in the area — some of which are allowed to stay open 24 hours — turned to the Miami Community Redevelopment Agency for help. "The club owners asked for increased police presence because of theft and to protect the patrons," says James Villacorta, executive director of the CRA.
Officers have found something telling: Patrons mostly need protection from themselves. (Read: Coming down from the craziness = anger.)
The incident that required the most police attention occurred when eight couples began brawling after being tossed from a club. Four officers and one sergeant were called to the scene.
In the past two months, total arrests in the area have swollen from an average of six per weekend to 24, according to police spokesman William Moreno. Car break-ins have dropped by 75 percent — to just five a weekend.
For years, the city has given financial breaks to the all-night venues. The idea is that by bringing business to the rough part of town, eventually it won't be such a scary place. But some of the folks who live there aren't satisfied. Says neighbor George Link: "The clubbers are out of control. It's ugly."