Cops Profile Cyclists, Without Apology

Categories: Bike Blog

On Saturday, the Herald reported this shocking bit of bike news: a man found dead in the back of a pickup truck in Little Haiti last Thursday was believed to have been shot by two men riding bicycles. So far, no arrests have been made.

It turns out this isn't the first instance of bicycle-related mayhem in the Magic City; last year, the Sun Post's "Murmurs" column reported on "Operation Shutdown," endorsed by Miami Police Commander Lorenzo Whitehead, who was then assigned to Coconut Grove. The Operation involved pulling over late-night bikers and patting them down, the rationale being that anybody cruising the Grove on two wheels in the wee hours was probably up to no good. Whitehead defended the procedure by pointing out that most of the bikers were, in fact, criminals.

Commander David Magnusson, who oversees police operations in Little Haiti, agrees. He also encourages his officers to pull over suspicious late-night bikers for whatever reason they can find — "There's so many bike violations -- you have to have a light on, for example -- that give us a pretext to pull them over," Magnusson explains. "And a lot of them have drugs on them, a lot of them have weapons."

But most bike crime isn't homicide, the Commander says; last Thursday's case stands out. "When we deal with bikes, we deal more with robberies. And we've put a major crimp on the robberies that were taking place on NE 2nd Avenue."

As for potential accusations of bike-profiling, Magnusson is unapologetic. "My advice to people who are offended by that is, look, don't ride your bike at three in the morning, by a warehouse district. If you are doing that, expect to be professionally harassed. Because you don't belong there."

So to the bar-going, moon-gazing, late-night-pizza-wolfing, two-wheeled night-owls, the Bike Blog offers this warning: stay away from those warehouses, and -- just in case -- get a light. --Isaiah Thompson

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