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Mariel was like pouring gasoline on a fire

"We went from being a seasonal tourist town to suddenly dealing with seasoned criminals who had nothing to lose," says Seraydar. "No matter how badly we treated them, no matter how low they lived, it was better than the jails they called home in Cuba. That first year, our crime rate went up 600 percent. Our entire police force was smaller than a single New York City precinct. It felt like we had been invaded and were losing the battle."

Alex Daoud was only five months into his first year as a Miami Beach commissioner when the boatlift began. He watched as the Beach buckled under the influx of the Marielitos.

"Mariel was like pouring gasoline on a fire," he says. "Murder, rape, burglary, kidnapping, assault and battery, muggings, home invasions, we were reeling out of control. Our police force was overwhelmed. The city's services were besieged. Narcotics were being dealt openly in the park, on street corners and in the backs of stores. We ranked among the top ten cities in the nation for murder and violent crime. And South Beach's elderly residents were easy victims. The city where I was born was not the one I knew and loved. Miami Beach was a mess."

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