Monday, April 9, 2012

The sequel no one wanted: Bookville II, return of the Miami sex offender camp

The fourth and final of my Examiner.com articles. In the future, I will NOT support The Examiner as they discriminate against ex-felons.


Bookville II, return of the Miami sex offender camp

Derek Logue
Cincinnati Crime Examiner

You cannot have your cake and eat it too. -- Old proverb
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Five long years ago, Miami's stringent 2500 foot residency restriction laws forced the city's registered persons into a handful of locations where it was still legal for them to live.The Julia Tuttle Causeway "sex offender camp" began with five men forced to live under the bridge connecting Miami Beach to Miami's Midtown. Over time, the camp grew to over 100 residents before the camp was destroyed in March 2010, and the former residents were scattered among the remaining available locations. 
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At the heart of the Julia Tuttle Causeway Sex Offender colony is Ron Book, a powerful South Florida lobbyist who, with the help of his daughter, Lauren Book-Lim, spearheaded the efforts to create the toughest residency laws in the country. The result was a residency restriction law barring sex offenders from living within 2500 of any place children may congregate, leaving the Julia Tuttle Causeway and a handful of isolated areas as the only legal places for registrants to live.
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Ron Book has not been without controversy. Ron Book was convicted of violating Florida's campaign finance laws multiple times, and now has a criminal record. Book still holds power in South Florida despite being under federal investigation for more political corruption. Corruption seems to be par for the course in South Florida.
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In a cruel twist of fate, Ron Book is also head of Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, entrusted to assist the homeless. Thus, Ron Book was charged with the task of assisting the very people he forced into homelessness in the first place. Needless to say, Ron Book was not well liked or trusted by those he forced under the bridge. The JTC registrants even posted a sign proclaiming "Welcome to Bookville." At least when pandering to the media, Book claimed he was doing everything he could to help the residents. He even admitted he was "wrong" to promote residency laws.
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The solution seems simple enough-- abolishing or reducing residency laws, as Iowa had done. But since we are talking about South Florida, the natural law of logic does not apply. Consider the following from Senator David Aronberg:
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"Aronberg — at 37, the youngest member of the Senate — said when the state passed a law in 1993 prohibiting sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, and day care centers it seemed like a good idea and local municipalities soon followed suit...
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"Ironically, Aronberg said, what started out as a well-intentioned way to keep kids safe from sex offenders has actually put them in greater danger. Unable to find housing after being released from prison, sex offenders have become homeless or have gone underground in record numbers. He noted Miami-Dade County made national news recently when sex offenders there were sent to live under the Julia Tuttle Causeway...
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"In an attempt to remedy this situation, Aronberg said he has put forth legislation — with the support of law enforcement, prosecutors, and child safety advocates — to create a single, consistent 1,500 ft. residency restriction throughout Florida. Aronberg said the bill, which passed the Senate last year, but was not taken up by the House, would end the confusion caused by 128 different ordinances, and would eliminate the homeless sex offender problem that endangers public safety."
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To sum up Aronberg's statements, sex offender residency laws do not work because it creates homelessness and puts lives at risk, therefore, the solution is increasing statewide residency restrictions to make more restricted areas across Florida and increase homeless registrants across the entire state. That makes perfect sense.
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Back at Bookville, Ron Book pandered to the media once again, proclaiming he found federal funds to relocate the JTC residents. It was the perfect plan--hide the city's international embarassment under the guise of assisting the homeless, and the media bought it hook, line, and sinker. The camp was closed and the residents were moved to temporary shelters. The media soon forgotten about the debacle (or more accurately, swept under the rug), but for those who once lived in Bookvville, the story was far from over.
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It wasn't long before Book pulled the funding he collected to aid the registrants, and they were forced back onto the street. Since the Julia Tuttle Causeway was now off-limits, the registrants were sheltered at a Department of Corrections parking lot. Meanwhile, Ron Book was back to his old tricks, defending his support of the residency laws and mocking those who appose him as "advocates for predators" and "suspect."
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It may have been the end of the Julia Tuttle Causeway camp, but not Bookville. The Emperor of Bookville found a new spot for his empire; Emperor Book began a conquest of Shorecrest. Soon Book found himself back on damage control. Here is a statement from Ron Book from the Miami Herald in November 2011:
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Whatever the merits of Book’s resettlement efforts, he cautioned they were temporary: “I can’t pay rent for these people forever. It runs for a period of time and runs out.” Indeed, soon afterwards, Book declared an end to the Trust’s aid for the Bookville exiles: “As far as we’re concerned, our help for people under the bridge is done.” He acknowledged, however, that without this aid, many would “end up back somewhere on the streets,” adding ominously “We just don’t know where.”
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And here is his statement in response to the media's uproar over his new Shorecrest kingdom:
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“I’m shocked. It makes me crazy. We worked very hard to make sure this crap didn’t happen again.”
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It does not look like Ron Book is being honest. Book has done everything to keep his law on the books, including using his daughter Lauren to promote his laws. Lauen has increased her yearly "awareness" walk by 500 miles each year; this year she allegedly walked 39 miles for 39 days, or about 1,500 miles. The books are sponsoring even more legislation to ensure more residents of Bookville in the future. The motivation behind it is Lauren Book's abuse at the hands of her nanny, who was not listed on the public registry. Nothing the Books have advocated would have prevented Lauren's abuse.
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Ron Book wants to have his cake and eat it, too. He wants his residency restrictions yet wants the homeless camps swept under the rug. It is the bad sequel nobody wanted for everyone involved. Once again Miami finds itself the center of international embarassment, and once again, Ron Book is the star of the show. 
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More on the Julia Tuttle Causeway/Bookville Saga can be found at Once Fallen.

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