It's not only the City of Miami that's had to contend with meter hackers. In 1999, a heavy-drinking Miami Beach meter man named Eby Loveland was arrested for using the key from a Spam can to empty coin compartments. With the secret thus out, Spam became the new Magnum among the homeless set. The island weathered what the Miami Beach parking director termed an "epidemic" of theft before all the meter heads were replaced.

In late 2004, the MPA introduced its "pay and display" system: the electronic machines that print dashboard receipts. Drivers were confounded by machines that broke often in those early days and demanded minimum payments that bordered on extortion. Since then, the bums have adopted the big blue boxes as their very own cash cow.

The MPA's Bredemeyer admits his agency is fighting a never-ending battle. "In one section of a parking lot, you might see a police officer patrolling, and on the other side, you'll see a vagrant trying to sell a ticket," he says. "It's the sort of thing where you can have a cop out there 23 hours a day, and in that last hour, they'll get you."

Bredemeyer, a polite Indiana native, is inside the MPA's drab headquarters located on Northeast Third Street, just two blocks from the Bayside parking lot where scalpers constantly take bites out of the agency's profits. But it appears there's enough parking cash to withstand the nibbles. Bredemeyer shows off the vault, where behind bulletproof glass, a week's worth of change has been mechanically packed into dozens of 75-pound-capacity clear plastic bags to be transported to a bank by a Brinks truck. In the MPA's collection process, coins go from a canister within the parking meter to a rolling cart, to a larger canister, to a scale, and into these baggies without touching human hands.

The system is a safeguard against the type of embezzlement that recently occurred in Coral Gables. In July, one of the city's meter collectors, Rolando Hernandez, was charged with grand theft and organized fraud after his father was caught changing more than $3,500 in coins at a local Publix. Turns out, cops said, the father-and-son team had changed similar amounts three times a week for about six months.

While seemingly every other municipal entity in South Florida has been hemorrhaging cash during the recession, the MPA has bloomed financially. In 2008, according to the agency's annual report, it made $87.8 million in revenue, for a whopping net profit of $27.8 million, $2 million more than in 2007 and $3 million more than in 2006. Bredemeyer gives two reasons for the growth: more development downtown, where the MPA has the bulk of its meters, and the "system is working. People are finding it more tolerable, and easier, to pay for parking."

Your average Miamian would scoff at that last claim. A quick read of comments on MPA's Yelp! page hints that because of omnipresent and always-enforced meters, frustrating receipt machines, and "stalker meter maids," the agency remains about as popular as the IRS. One commenter provides "synonyms for Miami Parking Authority: thieves, crooks, shysters, used-car salesmen, hoodlums." Another, after paying $90 in tickets, seethes, "You people are monsters."

"Ninety percent of the time [your machines] don't work," writes one more, "and when they do, they are so slow the people behind you are practically starting a riot while you stand there like a bumpkin waiting for your stupid slip."

Bredemeyer insists the MPA has "solved many of the machines' mechanical problems, and they're needing less repairs." He urges Miamians to try the agency's newest innovation, the pay-by-phone system, where users set up accounts connected to their cell phones. He believes that once people adopt the system en masse, the MPA will have finally beaten the nickel-and-dime hustlers — although then the agency could have more high-tech scammers to contend with. "I'm sure that as we're speaking," Bredemeyer says, "some hacker is probably trying to figure out how to get his name into the 'paid' column without paying."

In 2004, Kendall native Xavier Cortes was a 37-year-old out-of-work actor in desperate need of a gig. Opportunity came in the classified pages of this newspaper, where an advertisement sought "an extroverted, fun individual, male or female, who knows how to ride rollerblades and isn't afraid to wear a tutu."

Cortes immediately answered the ad. He was hired by the Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce. He donned a hot-pink wig and matching tutu, carried a wand, and began each shift with $40 in dimes. For his wage of ten dollars an hour, paid each day by a different Grove business, Cortes skated through the neighborhood putting coins in meters that were about to expire. He left a calling card tucked under windshield wipers. "You've just been saved by the Coconut Grove parking-meter fairy," it read, and included a coupon to the business that had donated the dimes.

Cortes's new occupation was the counterattack strategy employed by Grove business owners who felt under siege by MPA enforcement officers scaring away customers. Parking-meter fairies have been spotted in New York City and Portland, Oregon; the latter city's fairy was incorporated into a Jackass segment. Coconut Grove's incarnation was the brainchild of Cynthia Bettner, a local guidebooks publisher. "I was just tired of getting a ticket every time I ran into a business, and I knew I wasn't the only one," she explains.

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24 comments
robthom
robthom

Well, wonderful Haitian cabbie Pierre Jean-Charles the fulltime student and father of five got here the same way the criminals did.

Can we send them all back?

I want to go to school and drive a cab, and I was born here.

Kennoble
Kennoble

Robbed in Collins. Get your act together Miami. English tourist who will not return.

hunter
hunter

buch of no good idiots down there in opa-locka-scum of the streets-pooers with no scoopers=dragging ass and smelling like it-lived there most of my life and had my share of busting heads and thats a fact--loved it -lived for it-it replaced love in miami

Darren Chaker
Darren Chaker

I never thought parking was that bad. Under no means should these people be assaulted. Darren Chaker

D
D

Carry a gun.

ammy
ammy

Here is a great place ------ Cougarmatching.com ----- It's a premiere cougar dating community for older women seeking younger men and young men seeking cougars. Come in, post a message, a picture of yourself and check out the hot photo galleries. You will find someone you like here...

Ice
Ice

Here is a great place------- Cougarmatching.com ------- It's a premiere cougar dating community for older women seeking younger men and young men seeking cougars. Come in, post a message, a picture of yourself and check out the hot photo galleries. You will find someone you like here...

Anonymous
Anonymous

Here is a great place------- Cougarmatching.com ------- It's a premiere cougar dating community for older women seeking younger men and young men seeking cougars. Come in, post a message, a picture of yourself and check out the hot photo galleries. You will find someone you like here...

elena
elena

This mafia exist thanks to the authorities,and those exist thanks to US.So is US who have to do something about it.We have to be more responsible for whom we vote and constantly watch what are they doing with the power WE gave to them.About the homeless,Prince Dracul did the right thing,he prepared a party and invite all of them locked the gate and torched the whole place no more homeless.

Rothgar
Rothgar

The MPA IS the mafia. Businesses that shell out money to the MPA for creating more parking spaces that have never been built need to file a class action lawsuit and make the MPA prove that the funds they've collected have in fact gone to create more parking spaces. If they can't prove it, then they need to return the money. Additionally, Coconut Grove politicians need to be held accountable; if they don't eliminate the law that allows the MPA to pocket money for Grove businesses, then they should be thrown out of office.

suckhole
suckhole

This is very interesting, but could it be anymore verbose? Who fucking wrote this? Charles Dickens being paid by the word? I really want to read this, but I just can't spend 4890348903908 hours at work reading infinite unnecessary words.

Wolf Lorber
Wolf Lorber

Great article, muxh needed. Of course, people who do not have to work during the week have no need to "weekend."These people go on the town during the week, thereby avoiding crowds and parking problems. They are rich or very rich, or retirees (whether rich or not). They are also the bread-and-butter of many restaurants and other retail establishments.

PS: How about a series on "internships" at prestigious magazines, non-profits and institutions? Only children of wealthy families can afford to take these no pay/low paypositions which often lead to permanent ones. Examples are: National Geographic Society; Smithsonian Institution; The Nature Conservancy; New York Public Library; etc.

Henry
Henry

I recently had my car stolen for my home in Kendell and the thief took my good tags and put them on a different car. He then proceeded to accrue all kinds of parking violations. And the bills came to me. I had to fill out 3 different appeals to the county because they just seemed to be trying to force me to pay even-though I had included copies of the police report. Then they passed the overdue fines on to a collection agency that was based out of New York. How come they can find out if a person has unpaid parking tickets but can not determine if a vehicle is stolen or not? I would have liked too have a car thief off the streets.

Gus Garcia-Roberts
Gus Garcia-Roberts

Dave: Maybe I got too whimsical there. Thanks for grounding me. I drive a Toyota Corolla, which does have carburetor dust.

Rolanda: It wasn't my intent to embarrass you. The mugshot is public record, as is the police report. I allowed you to tell your side of the story and was careful to make it clear that you were not convicted. If the county withholds working opportunities due to this article you should definitely let us know. You're innocent until proven guilty.

Rolanda Benjamin
Rolanda Benjamin

I feel as though the Miami New Times deliberately made a fool of me by posting my picture and personal information related to job information as well as my arrest photo. I understand that this is a public newspaper which obtains information from public records but when I spoke with the writer Gus it made it seem as though he was just writing a article which was related to my case. This is UNFAIR and if i were going to be used in a newspaper I should have signed something stating that it was ok for them to do so.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Regarding the parking in the Grove, you hit the nail on the head. I've lived in Miami for 8 years, and love all of outdoor "mall" type of places like Bayside, Lincoln Road, etc.. however I have been to the Grove probably 5 or fewer times simply because parking is -always- a hassle and honestly, if I'm going out for fun, who wants to worry about parking? It's just easier to hit up Aventura or Miami Beach.

And the part regarding businesses paying upwards of $5000 per month for parking, what a shame considering those costs are only translated to the customers via higher prices. Just hurts Miami residents all-around.

dave
dave

Lamborghini's haven't had carburetors for years. And if they did, you wouldn't smell their dust since they neither produce dust, nor are they anywhere within olfactory detection range, especially considering the exhaust gases coming out of the lambo's tailpipes.... Otherwise great article, just sayin...

KPR
KPR

Quotes the article: " In 2008, according to the agency's annual report, it made $87.8 million in revenue, for a whopping net profit of $27.8 million, $2 million more than in 2007 and $3 million more than in 2006. "

Terrible. Now like any respectable city, county, state, or federal governmental agency in America, this bunch of public servants will have to figure out a way to never again make any sort of profit, and instead finish the fiscal year with a loss.

That way they can grow and prosper and hire lobbyists to argue for general fund cash.

John Albert Negron
John Albert Negron

As a fellow media professional and a 20 year Miami resident of hispanic decent, I resent that you have to bring national identities to any of the people in this article which only adds to the pejorative stigmas of our community.

cb
cb

They really need to fix the parking problems asap. I can't visit my gf downtown without having to pay $15 for a valet, or $10 to the city and risk getting towed when they put up 'no parking' signs overnight.

And arrest the idiots who will 'make sure nothing happens to your car'...

Grrrant
Grrrant

Parking, along with all the other ways the city and property owners have found to tax everyone, is exactly the reason people like myself, and others, are either leaving Miami or not going out to spend their money... after all the inflation it's just not WORTH IT any more. No wonder Miami has no clearly definable middle class.... these would be people with job skills and education, but no desire to put up with the nickle and dime BS of the nightlife and entertainment districts here in Miami's metro area.

 
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