Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Det. Robin Pinkard said the departments sex crimes unit doesnt have an issue with the offenders new location. The countys website also shows its clear of gathering spots for children.
They checked it out and its not in violation of the Florida statute or county ordinance, said Pinkard.
Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, lost a legal battle in 2009 when her agency fought on behalf of the group of sex offenders who were living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The ACLU argued the states 1,000-foot law should preempt the county ordinance. The case was dismissed, a ruling later affirmed by an appeals court.
It is Draconian, it is counterproductive, Kayanan said of the county ordinance. It should distinguish between offenders that pose a true danger to society and those who dont.
Last weeks removal of the sex offenders has become commonplace since the county passed its sex offender ordinance in 2007. The removal also highlights the complexities of dealing with the offenders at various government levels.
Most of the men at River Park had been living at the trailer park, mostly out of sight, for years. They were only removed last week after Miami-Dade police and state corrections planned an enforcement action then got their signals mixed.
Police were ready to take action on July 29, after conferring with the State Attorneys office. Before they did, the departments sexual crimes unit told the state of its plan. That forced the hand of DiBernardo, Corrections circuit administrator, who issued an email to her staff on July 29 that the offenders would be receiving notice by local police that they had to move within five days.
They [sex offenders] will also need to be instructed by their probation officer that they must move and case notes entered. We cant tell them where they should go. They will be required to find an address and you will need to check to see if it is not in violation of the ordinance, wrote DiBernardo.
What DiBernardo didnt know at the time was that county police had decided to back off the plan to remove the offenders.
We were going to do an enforcement detail, said Miami-Dade police Spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta. But some issues came up, so we got the halt.
When probation officers showed up at the park last week it caused a mad scramble, with about four dozen sex offenders packing up and leaving hastily. Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show there were 54 offenders living at River Park. State officials believe there were actually only 45 there at the time.
Cash, the corrections spokewoman, said the state was unaware the trailer park was within the hot zone. She said the state didnt even know Miami Bridge was a school. She wouldnt blame anyone for the mix-up, saying her department acted only after meeting with the county school board and law enforcement officials.
We gave [the sex offenders] written notice on Monday [July 29] that they had to leave by Friday, Aug. 2, Cash said. The offenders were given notice in writing. I know some of our officers did go.
The plight of the sex offenders first surfaced in 2007 with the discovery that many were living in a makeshift shantytown under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. As the camp grew, national news outlets picked up the story and local leaders like the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust were pressed to find them housing. Most of the offenders moved to Homestead. Then in early 2012 another group of offenders were found living on a sidewalk in the Miami neighborhood of Shorecrest, just off the northwest corner of Northeast 79th Street and 10th Avenue.
They were forced to leave after Miami commissioners turned a vacant piece of nearby land into a park. A fire station is now being built on that street corner.