In South Florida, there's a long and bizarre history of politicians as would-be crime-fighters. In the mid-1970s, Miami politico J. L. Plummer was called "Commissioner Kojak" after installing a police radio in his Cadillac and showing up at crime scenes. In 1979, then-Miami Beach Commissioner Alex Daoud "actively participated in the brutal police beating of three suspected rapists" while on a ride-along with cops.
It's been decades since Daoud and those rogue cops participated in what they called "attitude-adjustment sessions." But that doesn't mean Miami Beach's elected officials aren't itching to get out on the streets.
Last Friday night, Commissioner Ricky Arriola decided to go out on foot patrol with Miami Beach's Ocean Drive squad — the police unit formed over concerns about rising violent crime on the iconic stretch.
Arriola got more than he bargained for on the shift, which ended with a chaotic takedown of two suspects in a brutal mugging.
After attending roll call with the midnight shift, Arriola hit the streets with Chief Dan Oates and Capt. Wayne Jones. While in the area of Ninth Street and Ocean Drive, the trio heard a call go out about an armed robbery six blocks south at Third Street and Ocean.
Just before midnight, witnesses told police, two men had attacked a man and woman. The robbers choked the man until he was unconscious and then stabbed the woman in the arm. The muggers then fled in a minivan. With Arriola in tow, police spotted the van speeding up Collins Avenue.
At Eighth Street and Collins, the van's driver steered into the path of an officer on an ATV and rammed it before careening out of control and slamming head-on into a taxi cab.
A police ATV (left) flipped while trying to avoid a fleeing suspect. The alleged muggers' minivan slammed into a cab while trying to evade the cops.
Courtesy of Commissioner Ricky Arriola
One suspect was caught on the scene, while his accomplice fled on foot west on Eighth Street toward Washington Avenue, where he was almost hit by another officer on an ATV. The vehicle overturned as the officer tried to avid hitting the suspect.
Police ended up booking both men: Jorge Rodriguez, a 36-year-old from Hialeah, and Jovany Campo, who is 31 and doesn't list a permanent address. The pair face a slew of charges, including armed robbery, aggravated battery, assault with a deadly weapon, battery on a police officer, and resisting arrest.
The pair's violent attack is sure to fuel more debate over the future of Ocean Drive, where Mayor Philip Levine is trying to push back last call and enact other changes amid what he calls a rise in violent crime. Plus, a commissioner was there to see this crime in person.
In a Facebook post, in which Arriola uses the word "scumbag" three times to describe the suspects, the commissioner recounted the incident:
Last night I had the privilege to do a ride along with our Police Department.
I witnessed first hand how excellent our police are and how they put their lives on the line each day to protect us.
Our police department descended on the scene - including our police chief who ran to the scene (he can still run!) - and the scumbags were caught and identified by the victims.
Ocean Drive currently attracts a criminal element and they prey on our tourists and residents. It's unsafe and bad for business and our city image. We need to clean it up.
Our police are up to the task, but the environment is out of control. We need to fix it.
Three days have passed since the arrest, and so far no one in Miami has reported on Ricky's night of crime fighting. "These kinds of crimes happen all the time [on the Beach] unfortunately," Arriola said in a text message. "It's not big news."
In a follow-up phone call, Arriola said Miami Beach's tourists naturally lure robbers like the pair he saw arrested the other night.
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"I'm a fisherman," he said, "and when I fish, I look for large schools of fish. The same goes for these scumbags. They go to where victims are plentiful and prey on the weak."
But Arriola said he doesn't necessarily agree that sending more cops to Ocean Drive will solve the issue. Here's his response to a Facebook commenter making that suggestion:
We need to attack the problem on many fronts, more police presence is one step, but we need other approaches as well.
Last night was amazing to see great police work, but the downside was tragic - we closed Washington and Collins Avenue for 2 hours; tourists and residents saw a crime scene (and therefore feel the City is unsafe), tourists were robbed and we had a dozen or more of our police tied up at a crime scene - investigating, gathering evidence, directing traffic, etc.
It's bad for our City's image.