Dozens of Sex Offenders Are Now Forced to Camp Out in a Hialeah Parking Lot

Categories: News

photo by Terrence McCoy
Andre Moss and dozens of other sex offenders have been forced to live in a Hialeah parking lot since 2011.
Darkness has swallowed the train tracks. It won't be long until the men arrive. At 9:50 p.m., the first pair of headlights punches through the black, and a white Ford pickup rolls into the parking lot of a large warehouse sitting among the nameless structures dominating the Miami-Hialeah border.

Within minutes, more men approach on foot, on bicycle, and by car. With a downtrodden but urgent gait, they stride into the parking lot. They hate it here. They wish they could be anywhere else, in another country, or back in prison, perhaps even dead. But they have no choice. It's almost 10 p.m. This is Miami-Dade County. And these 57 men are sex offenders.

See also: Swept Under the Bridge

"I'm a businessman myself," says Andre Moss, a wiry 38-year-old erecting a cheap black tent atop a cement stairwell. In 2010, he was convicted of sexual activity with a minor; for the past three years, he has spent every night here, in torrential downpours, in frigid temperatures, with neither a bathroom nor running water. "And I need to sleep up here so I can get my rest. It's too loud everywhere else here."

In 2007, New Times documented how a Miami-Dade County law severely restricting where sex offenders could live led to dozens of them forced to sleep under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. That story led to national outrage and local promises to fix a law meant to protect children from predators -- but which many said created only more danger by placing offenders in the kind of desperate situations that led to new crimes.

Seven years later, it's clear the problem is as bad as ever. For the past five months, a growing community of sex offenders has swarmed these train tracks with tents, blankets, and lawn chairs. Because their probation imposes a curfew, the men must return here every night at 10 p.m. and stay until 6 a.m. or risk jail time.

"Not even dogs live like this," says one sharp-featured man who declined to offer his name. "We sleep on the ground, and you need this" -- he hefts a flashlight -- "when you go to shit in the bushes so you don't step in someone else's."

Worse, Miami-Dade County Police Department emails obtained by New Times show the camp has become a worrying security concern. The number of transient sex offenders has soared from 20 the year after the law was passed to 324 last July, according to police. With more sex offenders forced by law into homelessness every day, tracking the men has become almost impossible. Many have disappeared.

"Efforts to conduct mandated address verification on these sexual predators... is now impossible," says one memo sent to the unit that deals with sexual predators. "Those under supervision have assigned curfew hours, and the probation officers can check in [on them]. Individuals [off parole] have no such restrictions. This is a huge problem for law enforcement."

The fetid conditions in this parking lot underscore the deeper problems with Miami-Dade's flawed law. In 2005, following the rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Luns­ford in Homosassa, Florida, by a repeat sexual predator, Miami Beach effectively banned offenders from its mile-wide island with a new law restricting them from living within 2,500 feet of parks and schools -- more than twice the distance mandated by the state. Fearing an influx of sex offenders from the Beach to the mainland, Miami-Dade passed an identical countywide law later that year.

Probation officers soon faced a nightmarish question no one could answer: Where were all the sex offenders supposed to go? Men who generally would have gone to live with family members after getting out of jail were now barred from doing so.

Probation officers began taking offenders to a giant overpass in Coral Gables -- just one block from Kristi House, a treatment center for victims of sexual assault. They were also within 1,000 feet of two day-care centers and within 2,500 feet of eight schools.

New Times' revelations about that situation sparked an angry outcry, but another encampment sprouted months later, much larger than the first. This time, it was under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. For at least eight months, a new sex offender arrived every week. Some offenders were arrested for minor violations of their parole and thrown back in jail. Others vanished.

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12 comments
whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

Sounds like the laws are working fine to me.  

This should serve as a solid deterrent to people considering the committing of sex crimes.


shellystow
shellystow

@whateveryousay  I guess that is why the murder per capita rate is the highest in states that have the death penalty.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@shellystow @whateveryousay  I think a valid question would be how much higher would the murder rate be without it?  You seem to automatically assume it has not worked when I see it as it is working and things would be worse with out it.


LawCheck
LawCheck

@whateveryousay

Bullshit, you're lumping a bunch of different crimes together with the intention of creating a source of cheap labor. Walter Nix was ordered by someone, whom he thought was a police officer, to do what he did, which means that he was raped by fraud. He's a rape victim and he's on the registry for being a victim. 


It has clearly failed to lower the crime rate and to protect the public. What's needed is a more narrowly focused registry.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@shellystow  Perhaps states with lower murder rates have not had to find a way to stem the tide of murders.  Under your assumption Illinois, with some of the strictest gun laws on the books, still has one of the highest murder rates (Chicago) should stop those gun laws for being ineffective.  

shellystow
shellystow

@whateveryousay And you are entitled to your opinion. I disagree with it, and empirical evidence seems to support my position. A comparison of the murder rate in death-penalty states to that in non-d.p. from 1991-2011 shows it higher in the death penalty states every single year.  http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/deterrence-states-without-death-penalty-have-had-consistently-lower-murder-rates


Of the top ten states in per capita murders, one state is a non-death penalty state; nine have the death penalty.  http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state#MRord


Interesting, what? Thanks for the impetus to do a different type of research. I did not know this until now.

shellystow
shellystow

@whateveryousay Sir, you are entitled to your opinion, and I respect your right to it. However, please understand that it has nothing to do with sympathy. It has to do with what best protects society. The public registry has shown no benefit toward that end. In fact, empirical evidence shows that it actually does the opposite. What best protects society are fact-based laws allowing miscreants who choose to rejoin a law-abiding society to do so.


It must also be noted that, as an aid to stop child sexual abuse, the registry cannot be effective. Almost all child sexual abuse is committed by persons who are not on the registry, persons such as family members, peers, and authority figures in the lives of the children.


As I said, you are entitled to your opinion. I respectfully disagree with it. Peace to you.  

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