Ten Seconds to Eternity | Tailpipe | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Ten Seconds to Eternity

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"As I pulled away, the pilot and freight captain were screaming at me over the emergency channel," Estey says. "They were going nuts."

There's been surprisingly little aftermath from the incident. The Coast Guard, which never got involved that day, took no action, probably because there were no injuries, spokesman Luis Diaz said. ("No harm, no foul," said a man who runs a kayaking business.) The pilots association registered no complaint (it happens all too frequently, Cummings says), and the port administration took no notice.

But the story has resonated deeply with experienced kayakers, many of whom say they're still aghast at the heedlessness of the channel kayakers and particularly Kai. "It's outrageous that he took newbies into that inlet," one veteran kayak excursion leader says.

Kai himself responds to the furor with some agitation of his own in a written response to his critics. He says that the excursion announcement specified that only "skilled solo paddlers capable of self-rescue" should sign up. He says that safety issues were reviewed before launching. He also acknowledges that mistakes were made — "and valuable lessons learned." He adds that kayaking always has inherent dangers. "Kayaking is not without risks regardless of any factors," he says.

What about his fellow paddlers on the excursion? "What an adventure!" enthused one member of the group online. Added another: "Honestly, I can't stop laughing! The tugboats screaming at us to get out of the way, Jack and his sandals..." They had a blast.

Jeff Bingham, a well-known kayak instructor who had adopted the moniker "Kayak Jeff," says there's a tendency in this state to downplay danger. "Everybody thinks that the water's not that cold, so what could happen?" Bingham says. "There's a false sense of security in Florida. My motto is: Adventure is closer than you think."

Tried and Untrue

The gang crisis in Los Angeles is getting so desperate, a research group commissioned by the city to look into the problem led off its most recent report, submitted in December, with this observation: "Los Angeles is to violence what Bangladesh is to diarrhea."

Nothing the city has done in 20 years about its exploding gang wars has seemed to work, the report states. "After a quarter century of a multi-billion dollar war on gangs, there are six times as many gangs and at least double the number of gang members in the region." Some 700 gangs with about 40,000 members now plague the area, and nothing the police or prosecutors have tried seems to be working. General suppression efforts — cracking down — "cannot solve this problem," the study group asserts.

Why should it matter to South Florida readers that L.A.'s gang problem is spinning out of control? Tailpipe brings it up because of the lead from a South Florida Sun-Sentinel story published recently that nearly made him choke on his morning bagel:

"Los Angeles knows a thing or two about gangs and how to combat them. That's why West Palm Beach police are borrowing a tactic that has helped: gang injunctions."

Say what?

Sure enough, last week the West Palm Beach City Commission voted to emulate Los Angeles by trying out something called "gang injunctions." Boynton Beach plans on following suit.

There's no denying that gang activity is rising in Palm Beach County, and law enforcement there has been slow to respond. But all of a sudden, these local towns are fighting back by saying, with a straight face, that they think Los Angeles has the answer to fighting gangs.

Which is like saying that you want to improve the local environment by borrowing a page from Love Canal.

You see, this Tailpipe spent many years adding to the pollution of L.A., and he can tell you that at least part of the gang problem in that fair city is exacerbated by its get-tough police force, which for years figured the best way to deal with anyone with a gang tattoo was with a nightstick upside the head.

Gang injunctions, an L.A. invention, only reinforce the notion that police are more interested in harassing gang members than fighting gang crime. You see, under an injunction, named gang members not only can't engage in activities that are normally against the law (like gangbanging); they also can be arrested for otherwise legal things like standing together on a street corner.

In L.A., a close examination of the fine print in a gang injunction showed that two gang members couldn't, legally, be seen in public together. And they were brothers. So it's no wonder that civil libertarian types take a dim view of such injunctions.

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