Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Help Me Howard: Topless on the Beach
If you have ever been to Miami Beach, you may have noticed the topless sunbathers. They can do that because it's legal, right? Or is it? One woman wanted to find out, and that's why she is in tonight's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When Elie Azevedo grew up on Miami Beach, her favorite place was the beach.
Elie Azevedo, No More Topless?: "My father would take us before he started his day at work. I remember being there early in the morning, and he would jog or play with us, and we would have a good time as a family on Miami Beach."
Today, Elie still loves to go to enjoy the sand, the surf, the sun. But one sight bothers her: The bottomless supply of topless women.
Elie Azevedo, No More Topless?: "Some of the women were topless, and I was very offended. I don't have Playboy magazine on my coffee table, and I don't want to see that."
When Elie goes to Miami Beach, she sees topless women jumping up and down in the ocean, laying on the beach topless.
Some people enjoy looking at that.
Elie Azevedo, No More Topless?: "We give tickets for illegal parking, we give tickets for people who run stop lights. Why don't we give a ticket for someone who is topless?"
Since so many women are topless on South Beach, most people assume it's legal. So Elie called the police.
Elie Azevedo, No More Topless?: "They told me, 'Yes, it's against the law, but we don't really enforce it.' And that's when I figured there is something wrong about that."
Now if a woman is here on South Beach, the police let her go topless.
But walk two feet to the sidewalk on Ocean Drive and start walking topless, and the police will make you put a top on.
Elie Azevedo, No More Topless?: "You know, I think there are wrongs and there are rights, and I think this is something that we should not take lightly."
To Elie, it's not just a legal issue. It's a moral issue. Specifically, she doesn't think young children should watch things like this at the beach.
Elie Azevedo, No More Topless?: "So what goes through a young man's little mind? A young boy? There is so much pornography going on, and how does that get started? It gets started by looking."
You may be thinking, if it bothers you Elie, don't go to the beach. But she argues that she pays taxes for lifeguards and police to patrol the beach, so she has a right to go and not be offended.
Elie Azevedo, No More Topless?: "I have talked to a lot of people, and they say, 'I just don't go there.' But I don't like any other beaches. I'm close to South Beach, I don't like Crandon Park. It's further, and the beaches are just not as nice."
Of course, maybe the topless sunbathers are right, that it is legal to go without a top on the beach.
Elie Azevedo, No More Topless?: "I don't think it's legal, though. I really think it's illegal, and that's why I am calling Channel 7 to do the homework for me."
Well Howard, topless women on Miami Beach have been around for a long time, so is it legal to go topless on the beach?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "It is not legal to be topless in public, whether you are on the beach or sitting in your front yard, unless the city or county has designated a topless zone or a naked zone in an area. It's that simple."
I then started making calls. The county clerk's office had no record of an ordinance allowing any part of Miami Beach to be topless.
The city clerk's office wrote, "There are no official documents in the city's records designating any portion of Miami Beach topless."
A police official told us they had been told it was legal.
A city official then concluded that over time, certain beaches have just been unofficially designated as topless beaches.
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "This has been allowed in Miami Beach for decades, and it amounts to what the law calls a tacit approval of a topless beach. Elie can try to force the city to stop allowing topless beaches, or Miami Beach can formally designate a specific area to allow nudity so people who don't want to see it will know which places to avoid."
This week, Elie sent a letter to the city, asking them to put up signs letting people know it's illegal to be topless, and if that doesn't work, tell the police to ask women to put their tops on.
Elie Azevedo, No More Topless?: "I am not a trouble maker. I don't want to start trouble, I just want to see the law enforced. I just want to restore beaches for our families, so they can feel comfortable."
Patrick Fraser: "I have had people tell me, 'What are you doing? Leave those topless women alone.' And to be blunt, when Elie called, I just assumed that topless sunbathing was legal on parts of Miami Beach. I guess I was wrong, and I don't think the City will enforce the topless ban like Elie wants, but who knows?"
Uncovered a problem that has sent you over the top? Your options for solutions a little skimpy? Contact us. We are no day at the beach, but we do know how to dress up the law.
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EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com