Unsolved Mysteries, Dateline Miami Beach

When an anonymous reader sent us a photocopy of a Miami Beach Police Offense Incident Report, we treated it with the care and attention we give to all unsolicited submissions.

Later on, though, we looked at it, and something about the report struck us as not quite right. By all indications, the City of Miami Police Department had actually dispatched an officer and a crime-scene team to tend to the potentially explosive matter of...a trash heap in the parking garage. Would the Beach police actually allocate manpower in such a laughable, please-please-please-mock-us manner?

In a word, yes. Detective Tom Hoolahan, a public information officer with the department, admits that a report was filed on parking-garage refuse. More of Hoolahan's explanation later. But first, a little speculative theater.

ACT I: THE SCENE OF THE CRIME (A DRAMATIC RE-ENACTMENT)
Scene: A late-August morning, Miami Beach. The sun is bright and pleasant. Birds twitter cheerily. Close-up of Police Chief Philip Huber driving up the entrance ramp of the police department parking garage, located on the law enforcement plaza at 1100 Washington Ave.

HUBER: Another fine day in which I'll do my damnedest to protect the men, women, and children of Miami Beach, not to mention upholding the legal foundation that makes America - good God! What is that! [Pan to garbage on ground; Huber sputters into police radio] This is Huber. I need back-up right away! Get me Miller. No, I can't trust a lesser man.

MILLER: Right here, chief.
HUBER: How on God's mostly green earth did you get here so fast, Sergeant Miller?

MILLER: Well, we are in the police department parking lot.
HUBER: Miller, I want you to write a report on that trash over there in parking slot 3-18.

MILLER: You mean the empty soft-drink cans, the food wrappers, and miscellaneous paper items?

HUBER: [nervously fingering Jack Webb cameo brooch] Exactly. Approach with caution.

MILLER: [holding service revolver aloft] They appear to have been dumped from one vehicle at one time.

HUBER: [alarmed] This could be worse than I thought. Don't go any closer, Sergeant Miller! Call Crime Scene. I'm going to go inside and towel off.

Exit Huber. Enter Crime Scene team with Tech. Eichel.
MILLER: What can you make of this?
TECH. EICHEL: Let me be straight with you, Sergeant. I think we've got another 777-7777-7777 on our hands.

MILLER: I want these food wrappers fingerprinted and photographed.
TECH. EICHEL: I won't treat it differently than any other crime scene, sergeant.

MILLER: [looking into camera sternly] Darn these litterbugs! And in our very own garage, where only police employees park. What scoundrelry! But we're moving on it, yessir. We're acting. No one will accuse Miami Beach's finest of sitting by idly while disrespectful vandals besmirch our city's honor. You can bet the limit on that.

Background music swells. Fade to black.

ACT II: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Hardbitten New Times reporter (ink and coffee stains displayed prominently on shirt sleeves) phones Detective Tom Hoolahan.

REPORTER: Tom, hi. I had a few questions about this incident report.
HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official] Okay.
REPORTER: Why is the statute violation number all 7s?

HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official] The 7s mean investigation. That's the coding. If there's not a law broken where we can put a code, then we put 7s.

REPORTER: Could you explain briefly the concern that prompted this report?
HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official] We have a large building. We have eight levels of parking. We have a problem with just keeping the areas clean. It started where we just had an accumulation of trash, and there was an attempt made to nullify this. Oh, that's a bad word; I hope you don't use it. But trash is an ongoing problem.

REPORTER: [growing slightly more sardonic] Isn't there some internal mechanism for dealing with this? For instance, if someone keeps leaving the faucets on in the bathroom, is it customary to file an incident report?

HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official] Usually we would deal with them internally. This is the first time it has gotten to a point where we had to address the problem more directly.

REPORTER: Have there been previous incident reports filed as a result of parking-garage refuse?

HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official] No. The chief felt he wished to address it on the platoon level. He had advised each of the unit commanders to address it in their own way within the unit and advise personnel to take better care of the building.

REPORTER: Who parks in the garage?
HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official] All the employees in the building.
REPORTER: One thing that seemed particularly peculiar was the impounding of the trash, the photographing and fingerprinting. What was taken for investigatory evidence? It's just a bunch of garbage, right?

HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official] An accumulation of trash. We collected it in an attempt to identify where it may have come from. That was unsuccessful.

REPORTER: So that part of the investigation is closed?
HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official] That's the only reason I can tell you about it.

REPORTER: There are no leads?
HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official] To the best of my knowledge at this point they cannot proceed further with this investigation.

REPORTER: [beginning to feel slightly contrite for sardonic behavior, and desirous of some reconciliatory conclusion] Is it fair to say that Chief Huber feels very strongly about the care and upkeep of the

building?
HOOLAHAN: [dispassionate and official, except toward the end, when the idea of a moral quest begins to appeal to him, and he becomes moved by the concept and, consequently, quite moving in his eloquence] Yes. And I'd say the majority of the people in the building do also. We have a very attractive building, a very functional building, and I think it's improper for any of us to go through the building and find any kinds of trash. Or just inconsideracy.

Final fade.

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