Perversion and Justice

Will the state help with the growing sex offender colony under the Julia Tuttle Causeway?

Miami's colony of sex offenders is a lot like a big, stubborn pimple on the nose of the city: Nobody likes it, yet it just keeps growing.

So it's no surprise that after nearly two years of policymakers ignoring the problem, it has gotten uglier. The number of men living in a state-sanctioned tent settlement under the Julia Tuttle Causeway has more than doubled to 40 since New Times first broke the story in March 2007.

In response, Miami city commissioners passed some better-late-than-never legislation last week, designed to put pressure on the governor's office.

To sum up the good-intentioned, if somewhat toothless, resolution: The city will ask the state to form a task force to study and solve the public-safety-meets-human-rights nightmare. The group will consist of law enforcement officers, researchers, lawmakers, and social justice advocates.

"Until we put the governor on the spot, he will do nothing," Commissioner Marc Sarnoff told a late-morning city hall crowd of about 20. "Until you put a politician on the spot, he will do nothing."

In the audience, a slim fellow with a cleanly shaved head nodded and gave an ironic little smirk. A poised, well-dressed woman from the ACLU scribbled something onto a notebook. And Commissioner Tomas Regalado took a call on his cell phone.

Afterward, Miami Police Chief John Timoney complained the encampment has "caused a great deal of strain on police recourses."

On a recent visit to the bridge, Riptide counted 15 tents, three mobile homes, two shanties, and a van crammed under the causeway. That didn't include men who have spread out into nearby bushes to get some privacy.

Residents seem collectively unconvinced the city's new motion will do much. They have watched the elderly, the clinically insane, and the tremendously violent set up camp and flee the close quarters over the past two years.

Says 31-year-old Juan Martin, who was convicted of exposing himself to a teenage girl: "Come on — nothing ever changes. I'm gonna be under here for the rest of my natural motherfucking life."

 
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