Surrounded by a circle of grinning undercover cops in jeans and polo shirts, their badges swinging from silver chains around their necks, Miami Police Chief John Timoney stands on the most dangerous corner in Overtown.
"The vast majority of homicides in Overtown happen within two blocks of this corner," Timoney says, speaking into a forest of television microphones at NW 2nd Court and 12th Street. "And the vast majority of those homicides are related to drugs."
Earlier this week, Timoney announces, Miami PD's narcotics wing wrapped up a two-month sting targeting low-level drug dealers on these blocks of ramshackle, brightly painted apartments and corner markets. The chief grins as he counts off the results: 50 arrests. More than 1,300 prior convictions between those taken in. Two AK-47s, a Glock 9mm and a bulletproof vest seized.
"We identified ... local level dealers working on the corners and creating an environment where turf battles and shootings happen," he says.
Behind all the TV cameras and the grinning cops, a few dozen residents wander out of their apartments and watch the press conference, standing under a tree with their arms crossed. Not everyone is impressed.
"I live in this community and I see this stuff over and over and over. We talk and talk and go to meetings and press conferences when people get killed and nothing ever changes," says Karen Cartwright, an energetic woman in dress shoes and jeans.
Cartwright says she appreciates that the police brought so many dealers off the street. But she says another batch will replace them until the larger causes are addressed: the gangs who ship drugs into the neighborhood, and the rich customers who make the short drive from American Airlines Arena to buy heroin and cocaine.
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"Nobody stops the customers when they come over here," she says. "I'm never going to be staisified until they stop focusing on the little people trying to make a living. What about the big people bringing the drugs in?"
Still, there's no doubt that Miami PD's sting netted some pretty nasty characters off the nearby street corners.
Austin Angel, for instance, a 49-year-old with 51 prior arrests for robbery, cocaine possession and other charges. Or Anthony Singletary, who's been booked 57 times in his 41 years on Earth, for strong arm robbery, cocaine sale and grand theft auto. And let's not forget Alex Robertson, 44 years old, who's been arrested an amazing 95 times for everything from GTA to battery of a police officer.
"Getting these guys off the streets, we'll see a decrease in crime," Timoney says.