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Front Page » Government » Miami to probe claims of growing Miami River lawlessness

Miami to probe claims of growing Miami River lawlessness

Written by on August 6, 2019
Miami to probe claims of growing Miami River lawlessness

The Miami City Commission and City Manager Emilio González have agreed to look into what residents and business owners say is increasing lawlessness on the Miami River.

“We need 24/7 active law enforcement on the river,” said Shawn Beightol, who lives adjacent to the river. “We need a patrol boat on the river all day, every day, to push law enforcement as aggressively as possible.”

Throughout history, there have been rum runners, then drug runners, up and down the river, he said. “Now we have the fun runners,” referring to small craft and wave riders helmed by people who don’t know the rules of safe boating, or who don’t care.

In 1987, the Miami River was declared a no-wake zone, but pleasure boaters there don’t slow down, said Mr. Beightol and a parade of neighbors and business people who came before city commissioners July 25.

They described music blasting from boats, intoxicated captains and boat occupants, careless steering, and damage to both boats and docks. It’s not just annoying, they said, it’s dangerous to river inhabitants including dolphins, tarpon, osprey and manatees.

They said they are frustrated by delays in removing derelict vessels, and non-response when they call the police non-emergency line to report problems.

If the river were rid of these nuisances, Mr. Beightol said, property values would double or triple. “Whatever you spend, you’ll get back in revenues.”

“Chief [Jorge] Colina and I have met to talk about increasing boat patrols, and moving the Marine Patrol boat to behind the Miami River Commission; it’s now at the Miami Outboard Club,” Mr. González said.

The commission’s offices are on the river at Northwest 14th Avenue, a more heavily trafficked area, whereas the club is on Watson Island. “We’re also looking into technical solutions” such as cameras, the city manager said.

“Even a police boat can’t go beyond a certain speed,” said Wifredo “Willy” Gort, Miami commissioner. “We need the cooperation of homeowners who have cameras.” He suggested that any home- or business owner with a river-facing camera contact the city about sharing video footage and perhaps allowing the city to tap into the feed.

Brett Bibeau, managing director of the Miami River Commission, read into a record a letter from Horacio Stuart Aguirre, river commission chair. “On Nov. 6, 2017, The Miami River Commission (MRC) passed a unanimous advisory recommendation to increase resources for the Florida Fish and Wildlife and City of Miami Marine Patrol, for increased enforcement of public safety and security laws along the Miami River, considering the increase in vessel traffic on the Miami River with new riverfront restaurants, etc.,” Mr. Aguirre’s letter said. “Since then, the MRC has taken numerous specific actions to advocate in favor of this critical advisory recommendation regarding public safety. Although the full MRC hasn’t reviewed the city administration’s specific proposed amendments to the city code regarding the legal removal of derelict vessels, the administration is trying to improve the law and expedite the process.”

4 Responses to Miami to probe claims of growing Miami River lawlessness

  1. Shawn E Beightol

    August 8, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Two corrections and observations about cameras:
    1) A quality waterfront experience will not double or triple the value of a waterfront property, it multiplies the waterfront property value 3-10 fold over nearby non-waterfront properties. The point is still valid – an investment in improving the quality of the waterfront experience will increase property values and provide a increased return on investment via property taxes.

    2) The Miami Marine Patrol is stationed at the Miami Yacht Club near the Miami Outboard Club, but 2 distinct entities.

    3) One of the speakers, John Lawrence, pointed out that the City of Miami had received a $1 million grant from Homeland Securities for cameras a decade ago. There is one at the park. There is a city camera across the street from the park. Apparently, no one can access the imagery for law enforcement purposes. Where are the other cameras and why aren’t the existing ones being actively monitored?

    3) Wake is a function of speed and hull length. Some boats (including the tugs and freighters) can go by at 10 mph and not produce a wake. Jetskis have very short hull lengths and powerful engines. It has been shown that most jetskis produce damaging wakes above 4 mph. For this reason speed triggered cameras alone cannot do the job of law enforcement. They must be monitored and a patrol boat on the river must interdict wake making vessels. Furthermore, wake signs must be posted and it questions the sensibility of launching a fast jetski (some of which are unlawfully rented out by the hour) 45 minutes up the river. Most people on jetskis demonstrate ignorance of the law,disdain for the law, and/or the patience to lawfully traverse the river at speeds under 4 mph.

  2. Pascal

    August 9, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    We often go up river as it is a wonderful cruise showing what makes Miami so special. All these years, I have NEVER seen a patrol boat, especially at night, despite having witnessed many boats and jet skis throwing a wake.

    Sadly it is not limited to the Miami river. Take Marine Stadium… we no longer go there on week ends because of the reckless behavior of jet skis and wake boats. I have called FWC or Miami Marine patrol on ch 16, they don’t even monitor their radio.

    Compare this to Key Biscayne Marine Patrol who does a great job patrolling the area by the KB sandbar, responds to call on ch 16 and acts upon the information given (reckless jetskis and wakes)

    The Miami river is easy to enforce since reckless drivers don’t have anywhere to go… bridge tenders could also report reckless behavior only if law enforcement was monitor ch 9 on the river.

  3. FrequentBoater

    August 12, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    As a recreational boat owner and frequent cruiser around Key Biscayne, Biscayne Bay and the Miami River for several years, I can attest to the significant issues and reckless behaviour of these “hordes” of jet skis and sometimes intoxicated boat owners in these areas. Our local Marine Patrol may be visible in certain “sandbar” locations and on certain holiday weekends, but they are largely missing in action most of the time. There is no limit to the number of jet skis that race at speeds WELL in excess of 30 mph around the Miami Marine Stadium and other zones. We need more marine patrol officers out there and strict enforcement of the existing laws.

  4. Eric

    August 14, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Great report Catherine. This should be on the weather news on major TV Channels as a way to inform our citizens. Have lived and owned my unit on the River since 1979 and have seen my share of issues as the years rolled by. There is some police patrol presence from time to time. But after some time, you just don’t see them anymore. Most of their patrolling is certainly not on peak times, when we really need them. Why not having a direct Marine Patrol base on the mouth of the river, like the Coast Guard had a few years back. That alone will intimidate anyone from speeding and highly drunk captains on the River. Take me back to the old times when the only noise that I heard was the fishing boats and the big tugboats. The 1000 watts of REGGETON at all hours of the night certainly needs more attention, especially for new apartment buildings being created around the river.