MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Two years after a homeless encampment under the Julia Tuttle Causeway was cleared of sex offenders and fenced off to keep them from returning, a new gathering place has popped up in the Shorecrest neighborhood in northeast Miami.
Each night more than a dozen men gather on the sidewalk at the southwest corner of NE 79th Street and 10th Avenue right next to vacant lot owned by the city, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald. They’re usually gone by dawn.
Miami-Dade has some of the strictest laws on the books for where sex offenders can live. It bars them from living within 2,500 feet of a school, which exceeds the state’s 1,000-foot restriction. The makeshift encampment in Shorecrest is one of the few places in the county where they can go.
So how did the men know where to go when they were released from jail or prison?
According to some who sleep there, they were told of the spot by their probation officers. State prison officials, however, said they are not instructing offenders to move to the site but they are aware of it and monitoring it
“Not true… they are actually programming their ankle bracelets so that when they’re not there from the hours of five p.m. to five a.m. they will send out an alert saying they’re not there,”: said Marc Sarnoff, Miami-Dade Commissioner. “That is in my estimation and I think any common persons estimation an actual determination that these 16 people must be on that venue.”
Twenty four “transient” sex offenders list the corner as their home residence on a registry maintained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Some of the men sleep in their cars, others spend the night in folding chairs. One man even erects a tent nightly. All were ankle monitoring devices which let their probation officers know if they stray from the area overnight.
Many neighbors assumed the group was just a bunch of homeless men. They are outraged to learn that they’re also sex offenders.
“I don’t know how anyone could let their kids out here you know,” said Tom Damico, a local homeowner. “I know there’s bad parts out here. But this is disgusting. This is all residential. The kids live around here and to know this is happening here this is disgusting as it gets.”
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said he sent the Governor and the State Department of Corrections a letter demanding that they stop sending sex offenders to Shorecrest.
“Rick Scott needs to wake up and say I can’t have my department of corrections putting registered sex offenders in Shorecrest in the upper east side,” said Sarnoff. “It’s just wrong and we’re going to have to go to court because they’re not listening to me.”
Sarnoff plans to ask the city commission to file a lawsuit against the state at the next commission meeting on March 22nd.
In the meantime, the Miami Dade Homeless trust has been meeting with the homeless sex offenders there.
“My staff has only found six or seven of them out here,” said Ron Book of the Homeless Trust. “We’ve made contact with them. We’ve told them we’re prepared to provide them access to some services in the like… at the present time we don’t have a place to house them.”
Ron Book fought feverishly to disband the sex offender camp under the Julia Tuttle Causeway years ago.
“We’ve been in touch with the department of corrections at the top levels today and we’ve been in touch with the governors senior staff today in their public safety unit and they have pledged to number one make it clear to the local staff that they should not be sending anyone to 79th street and ne 10th avenue,” said Book. “That doesn’t mean others may not come here and register this as an address.”
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.