Tuesday night, Steve Berke, the Miami Beach filmmaker and mayoral candidate, received a horrifying phone call. His girlfriend was on the line and frantically said she had just encountered an intruder holding Berke's laptop in the couple's bedroom of their Miami Beach home.
She relayed that after she saw the man, he promptly ran off, with the laptop, and that she didn't know where he was. She said he was wearing jeans, a Miami Heat cap, and appeared to be about 18 and Mexican or Central American. Berke promptly dialed 911, telling the dispatcher that his home was being robbed and the intruder was still potentially in the home. He gave his address, near 17th Street and Michigan Avenue.
Berke — known for comedic videos like a Grease parody advocating legal marijuana — was about 15 minutes away. When he got there, the cops still hadn't arrived. He had called another friend to race over, and he and his father decided to go driving around to see if they could find the intruder. After another ten or 15 minutes, he texted his friend to ask if the police had arrived. "Are they there yet?" They weren't.
Berke, furious, called 911 again. "Why the hell aren't the cops at my house yet?" The dispatcher told him to remain calm, he says. "I'm not staying calm," he replied, "because nobody's coming to help us. There's a burglary in progress right now!"
Finally, after another 20 minutes — nearly an hour after the initial call — a police officer showed up, drinking a Slurpee, Berke says. The officer told him he didn't realize the call had been for a burglary in progress. In an apparent miscommunication, he had been told it was a previous theft and was responding to a stolen-property claim.
The burglar got away. Berke lost the laptop, as well as other expensive equipment, which he doesn't believe he'll recover.
He's still bewildered at the police department's response. "I don't know how they could have had that miscommunication," he says. "I gave them all the right information.
"It's just disappointing that you think you’re safe. You call the police, and they don’t’ show up."
A Miami Beach Police spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
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