South Florida: Trouble in Paradise

South Florida is Hit By a Hurricaine of Crime, Drugs and Refugees

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severely wounded in a Coconut Grove shopping center.

The three Gibb brothers, known as the Bee Gees, live in a wealthy enclave in Miami Beach. Barry Gibb's wife Lynda had her purse snatched. The trio's father Hugh Gibb was mugged. "No woman should be alone in this city," says Barry. "Or man," adds Bee Gee Brother Robin. Residents of nearby Golden Beach obviously agree: the city council voted last month to close six of the seven streets leading into town, and place a gate and a guard at the seventh.

The bloodiest crimes tend to be committed by drug dealers and refugees, and often that warfare is intramural. One man was shot as he walked from his apartment building in Miami; injured, he was taken to Miami's Mercy Hospital where he was again shot, this time fatally, in his bed. As Elio Gonzalez and his twelve-year-old son Eric were getting out of their car in front of their home in North Miami, another car raced by spraying machine-gun fire; both father and son were killed. (Twentythree percent of Miami's murders last year were committed with machine guns, a favorite weapon of drug dealers.) So many bodies now fill the Miami morgue that Dade County Medical Examiner Joe Davis has rented a refrigerated hamburger van to house the overflow. "If you stay here, you arm yourself to the teeth, put bars on the windows and stay at home at all times," says Arthur Patten, a Miami insurance executive. "I've been through two wars and no combat zone is as dangerous as Dade County."

As terrified residents search for protection, the region is beginning to be as armed as a military base. In the past five years, 220,000 guns have been sold in Dade County—an average of more than seven guns for every new household. So far this year, gun sales in the county have risen 46% over 1980, to a record 66,198. It is easier to buy a pistol than an automobile in Florida, where the gun lobby has frustrated virtually all attempts at handgun controls. Even the Rev. MacVittie has purchased a revolver to keep in his home. "That is one hell of a way to live," he says. Adds Janet Cooper, a legal researcher who lives in Miami: "I see people walking down the streets openly carrying guns, some in their hands, others in their holsters. You don't dare honk your horn at anybody; you could end up dead."

Besides buying such standard gear as pistols and window grates, residents are purchasing attack dogs, alarms that scream out "Burglar! burglar!" and even armor-plated cars usually made for export to the war zones of Central America. George Wackenhut, who heads a giant Coral Gables-based security firm that bears his name, has watched his business in South Florida grow by 22% this year. "When I was growing up, a murder story used to be good for ten days in the papers," says Wackenhut, a onetime FBI agent. "Here a morning kill may not even make the afternoon news."

South Florida is just beginning to be the crime capital of the nation, but it has been the drug capital for a decade. Smuggling dope into the region is about as difficult as buying a souvenir in Miami Beach. "They land it in everything but a bathtub," marvels Patrolman Doug Morris of the Dade County public safety marine patrol, whose dozen men and six boats help patrol the 550 sq. mi. of county waterways. "Hell,

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