Crime Museum History Tour
Deliberate indifference began to worm itself into the fabric of South Florida’s existence with the arrival of the first white settlers in 1830 soon after Spain sold Florida to the United States for five million dollars. They came to find a swampy, mosquito-ridden area so uninhabitable that it would take nearly 70 years and the vision of a wealthy Standard Oil industrialist named Henry Flagler who built a private railroad to bring tourist money to the land of eternal sunshine in 1897. In the 1920’s – 1930’s, Miami’s magic came from exotic things like Spanish moss on cypress trees and bull alligators and black lightning bugs that flashed and roared their mating calls during red sunsets.
It came from silken sand dunes, white egrets, brown rattlesnakes, blue bottlenose dolphins and the red ink stained hands of bolita players whose magic came from gambling. While destitute New Yorkers hawked apples on the streets of the Big Apple in the midst of the Great Depression, Miami was grossing $60 million a year from illegal gambling and the daily horse race results sheets were the hottest sellers on the streets of Miami.
To convince the less wealthy and complacent workers of the great Northeast to come to the warmth of the south for vacation there needed to be affordable hotels and a variety of activities and Henry Flagler happily provided them. His five-story Royal Palm Hotel at the mouth of the Miami River was built in 1897, the first hotel in the city to feature electric lights, an elevator and swimming pool. It was also the first hotel to offer gambling, totally illegal at the time, as was the serving of alcohol.
Yet, while a clause prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages had been included in all land deeds for the new city of Miami, the Royal Palm Hotel had an exemption to serve alcohol to its guests during the three months of the tourist season, an early example of South Florida’s deliberate indifference. And the gambling? It was a profit center that police chiefs, judges, and politicians stumbled over themselves to get a piece of the pie. In South Florida, “Tourism is King” ever since the 1800’s for both good and bad and in the name of protecting tourists.
South Floridians have promoted the circular reasoning that any crimes committed against them and any effort to indulge them should be played so as not to drive them away. Nine decades of political corruption have been unearthed from the forgotten archives of the State’s Attorney’s offices of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties to tell the true story of corruption in Florida from the 1930’s to today — Florida’s Era of Great Corruption. These records show that indifference has been refined into a lifestyle by South Florida’s public officials who recognized early on how it could be successfully exploited.
They prove that public corruption in South Florida is never the result of randomly immoral people gaining power. It is always deliberate, and often deliberately ignored.