Bevis's Travels

Everything stolen – Miami 1995

It was the Saturday before the end of my Florida holiday, and I was flying home from Orlando on the Tuesday. I had booked in for two nights at the Jolly Shores Motel in North Fort Lauderdale, and decided to spend the day in Miami, taking in some places that I had not been to before.

On the Saturday morning I put a small sports bag containing things that I did not want to leave at the hotel or carry on my person into the boot of the car, and set off for Miami, a distance of about 28 miles. The car was a Nissen Sentra, with a proper boot, rather than a hatchback.

During the day I left the car parked in five or six places in Miami, mainly car parks, but a couple of times in the street. In the evening a I got back to the Jolly Shores at 9.00pm, by which time it was pitch dark, and drove to the car park at the back. I opened the boot to take out the bag, and there it was - gone! At first I could not believe it, but then looked at the panel around the boot lock, and could see that it was slightly distorted, where someone had put a screwdriver in the lock and forced it sideways. It was a very poor design, and would have taken very little time or effort to release the catch.

The bag had contained my passport, driving licence, air tickets, car hire documents, insurance documents, house keys, camera, camcorder, binoculars, shaver, and a few other bits and pieces. Fortunately I had taken my credit cards and some money with me, and there was some more money hidden inside the car. I was a bit worried about the house keys, because the person who had them also had my address, but it was unlikely that they would be able to get the keys to anyone in England before I got home. Loose in the boot had been some motorcycle parts that I had bought from Orlando Yamaha, and they were also missing.

I went into the motel and asked the manager if I could ring the police. He was reluctant at first, because motels never like being visited by the police for any reason, but he eventually agreed and I spoke to an officer, who said someone would come to the motel. Shortly afterwards a policeman arrived and I told him what had happened. He asked where the theft had taken place and I said I did not know exactly, but it was in Miami. He immediately said "If it happened in Miami you must report it in Miami". There was no way that he was going to allow a Miami crime to get into the Fort Lauderdale statistics. I rang the Miami police, and they said I should go down to the main police station in the morning.

The first thing I did on the Sunday morning was to ring the British Consulate in Orlando to arrange for a replacement passport, but I just got a recorded message saying that they were closed until Monday, but if I wanted to report a death I should ring a number in Atlanta.

Actually, I did not mind going to the police headquarters in Miami, because it was still around the time of the Miami Vice series, and I thought it might be quite interesting. When I got there I was told to wait in the entrance hall, and someone would come to see me. I had imagined that there would be a constant string of drug dealers being led through in handcuffs, and possibly a shoot-out, but all that happened was that an old lady came in and asked if she could use the toilet.

Another figment of my imagination was that I would be interviewed by a big, hard looking officer called Lewtenant Chuck Brubaker, but a young man appeared and introduced himself as Gary Green. He took me to his office, noted the details, and gave me the paperwork I needed for an insurance claim. He also came outside and looked at the car.

My flight was on the Tuesday afternoon, so I had to get back to Orlando for the Monday morning so that I could start to sort things out. It was about 250 miles to Orlando, which was not too difficult, and I booked in at a motel not far from the city centre and airport. On the Monday morning I rang the consular office and told them what had happened. The lady was very nice and said she would ring back shortly. I said I would be by the phone, as I was not going anywhere, and she said "No, you won't be, without your passport, will you". She rang back and told me I should get some passport photographs and go to the office on Tuesday morning. I had mentioned that the one thing I was not short of was money, and she sounded very relieved, because most of the people who go to that office are youngsters who have run out of money, hoping to get a sub from HM Government.

I rang Orlando Yamaha, and they said they could get replacements for the stolen parts for the Tuesday morning. The next stage was to go to the airport and get replacement air tickets, which cost about £60. Then on to Kmart for passport photos.

On the Tuesday morning I went to the consular office, which is about two thirds of the way up a sky-scraper in the city centre. It is actually the most visited British outpost in the world, but when I arrived there were no customers. The people could not have been more pleasant and helpful. They took the photos and produced a temporary passport in a very short time. It was like an A4 sheet of paper, but I had no problem with it on the journey home. On to Orlando Yamaha, who had the parts ready.

When I took the car back there was a little bit of a fuss, and they photographed the boot lock, but there were no repercussions.

As soon as I got home I made an insurance claim, and they paid for everything excepting the replacement air tickets, which were not covered.

This incident taught me a lesson about looking after my valuables when travelling abroad, and I am now very much more careful. The Foreign Office recommends that you leave things in the hotel safe, but that is not a viable proposition if you are moving on every day, and in some of the hotels I stay in it is doubtful whether anywhere is safe. Nowadays I keep my passport and other important documents with me, and if there is anything in the car boot I avoid opening it after parking in places that are at all risky.