Drug trade, human trafficking, and environmental degradation are worsening with the proliferation of illegal charters along the Miami River and Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia wants a new law enforcement substation there to curb the rogue elements.
Illegal boating has contributed to increased accidents, fatalities and deterioration of island preserves and parks, according to a news release from Garcia’s office. It’s gotten worse with the pandemic, she said. The Senator has been meeting with officials from Miami-Dade law enforcement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“These bad actors are tarnishing the reputation South Floridians have as respectful and responsible boaters,” Garcia said. “Everyone I have met shares the same consensus that something needs to be done to address the up-tick in criminal activity that had started before the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing patrol presence on the river will prove critical.”
Garcia’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about where the new substation would be located, how much it will cost or other details about the Senator’s next step in making this a reality.
This summer, Garcia met with the Miami River Commission, visited the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Biscayne Bay headquarters, and participated in several ride-alongs with the U.S. Coast Guard, FWC and local marine law enforcement units to gather firsthand knowledge of the increase in criminal activity on the Miami River and Biscayne Bay.
The consensus among local officials is that a joint effort to increase law enforcement presence on the Miami River and strengthen enforcement tools is of the utmost importance, the news release said.
Marine enforcement presence that would cover that area is already being beefed up in budgets for the coming fiscal year. Five city marine patrol officers and four county marine patrol officers have been added for the coming fiscal year, according to Miami River Commission Chair Horacio Stuart Aguirre.
Many of these illegal charters are using private property and public seawalls to embark and disembark unsuspecting passengers, the news release from Garcia’s office said. These vessels are not U.S. Coast Guard certified or crewed by certified professionals and may not have insurance coverage, the new release said.
The news release called the current system of fines and penalties “lackluster” and said they fail to deter illegal charter and livery operations.
Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]
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