Thieves have field days on the wonderful beaches of Miami Beach. Pickings are especially good for them lately at the elegant South Pointe Park in South Beach, where I take a walk almost every Sunday morning.
About a dozen cops had swarmed the park looking for a purse snatcher on Sunday morning on January 5 when I arrived. A suspect was detained and cuffed next to the public restrooms. He was chatting amiably with the officers.
“I know him,” a passerby told me. “He’s a career criminal, up here from Cuba during Mariel when Castro let criminals go.”
I continued on onward toward the beach itself. Another handful of officers were gathered around a tourist family, one of whom appeared to be the purse-snatcher’s victim. A cop told me they had nothing on the guy detained at the restrooms, so they had to let him go.
I conversed there with a couple from Australia, remarking on how purse snatchers around here are lucky to get much cash. They might sell stolen credit cards for a few bucks, and sell swiped cell phones. Hot cell phones fetch about $50, I am told, or are simply kept and used where there is WIFI, for instance at the library, where someone tried to sell me an I-phone for $25, saying he was a student, that the phone was his, and that he had lost the charger somewhere. I need a WIFI-access device but am not about to use stolen merchandise to get it.
I recounted to the Australians how Honolulu was a purse snatcher’s heaven when I was there because in those days Japanese preferred to carry cash. I was on the third floor of a hotel when I witnessed a man grab a Japanese lady’s purse on the Kuhio Avenue. She held on for dear life as the guy dragged her along the block. Two Samoan bouncers came out and beat him so badly that he was unconscious when the police arrived. Samoan men can be really big and strong, but the males do not have a monopoly on size and weight, and ferocity when at war: a Samoan woman chased her sizeable cheating husband down the street and beat him to death at an intersection in a local neighborhood while I was there.
Japanese tourists were favorite targets in New York City too. My friend Keiko from Osaka was ripped off for $10,000 of cash when she opened her purse after a woman with a baby approached her in tears, saying she needed food for the baby. Keiko was in town to rent space for her dance troupe. She gave the responding police officer all the serial numbers. She had only five dollars left when she called me to the rescue. She cried and cried. Her sponsors were wealthy beyond my imagination, so it was not so much the money lost as the insult that troubled her.
Lo and behold, I happened upon another theft victim at South Pointe Park when I exited the men’s room on Sunday, January 19.
A young Hispanic man visiting this great nation of ours had his wallet and other things stolen while changing clothes in the restroom. A member of the family he was visiting said she saw a “suspicious” man practically run from the restroom. She asked me if I had seen him inside. I had not.
The suspect’s description pretty much fit that of the man whom had been questioned by the police there two Sundays before. I advised that the police should be called right away because they might swarm the area as I had seen them do before, and he might be caught.
The victim spoke no English at all so the lady who had questioned me called it in, giving a detailed description of the man and his clothes, saying she could identify him if he was apprehended.
About ten minutes later, a young lad with the family said he had used an application on his phone to locate a phone apparently stolen with the wallet. His mom called that information in to the police, and then we all walked toward the parking lot, where she said she was told to meet the police.
After we reached the parking lot, the lad said the phone located was not the one stolen.
A single police officer arrived in the parking lot about 17 minutes after the theft was reported. She was all business, no doubt having a busy day because the Art Deco Festival was ongoing. She addressed him at length in Spanish as he listened intently.
My understanding of Spanish is rather pathetic given the number of years I have lived here. It is indeed a shame that Anglos who have lived here for a decade or more do not speak the county’s other official language.
It seemed that the cop was giving the victim an extended lecture on what the police procedure was for this kind of crime, and instructions on how to take precautions to prevent property from being stolen. Too late for that now, I thought.
I asked the local lady what had been said.
“She said police cannot go around searching and arresting people because they look like the man that just looked suspicious to me. You have to actually see him take something.”
I told the officer that I had stayed around because I had some information that might be helpful because it was probably not coincidental. I started to tell her about the previous incident, on the same day of the week, at about the same time and location, with a man detained and released whose description was similar to the suspicious man seen today. She considered the information irrelevant to dealing with the present situation, and cut me off.
She told a private security officer on a bicycle that there were a couple of officers on the boardwalk who would keep an eye out for anyone fitting the description of the man leaving the men’s room in a hurry. She took a report from the victim, and left 41 minutes after the theft had been called in.
I called Capt. Mark Causey, who heads the Special Operations Unit of the Miami Beach Police Department, and has served as chief of the South District that includes South Beach and its Entertainment District. We may have a professional thief working South Pointe Park, I opined, someone whom might be set up for a sting. He said he was well aware of the situation there and it was being taken care of. That is nice to know.
It is advisable for everyone to be alert to the fact that the beach is awash with thieves, and to keep their eyes on their property. Of course our tourist destination is not unique. The cops are not going to run out of work even where Sharia is imposed to cut off thieves’ hands. On old lady at the dentist’s office said that humans have trouble with their teeth because the Lord created dentists. Likewise, we are cursed with thieves because cops were created to apprehend them.