25 members of ‘Yellow Tape’ gang are behind bars

Law enforcement officers say it’s virtually impenetrable for undercover work. One way in, one way out. Dozens of two-story, deteriorating beige apartments on a main drag just off the Florida Turnpike in South Miami-Dade.

Lookouts are everywhere.

For years — even decades, police say — criminals roamed the grounds of Cutler Manor Apartments, growing up there and turning a neighborhood clique into a criminal enterprise.

Recently, residents rose up. Their voices, police say, led to a handful of arrest warrants and a series of arrests Wednesday that law enforcement hopes will put a large dent in criminal activity on the premises.

Concerned residents met with law enforcement leaders through church groups, and even got help from the NAACP when demanding change after suffering rampant crime, including the deaths of family members.

So for the past six months, officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department, working with the State Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, embedded themselves in the community. They saw drug sales, burglaries, robberies, firearm violations. They even believe the gang that calls itself “Yellow Tape” committed murder.

“Think about what that represents,” Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said of the gang’s moniker. “This morning, we came knocking on their doors. We’re going to take it back.”

Yellow tape is used by police to cordon off areas under investigation, often for a murder.

On Wednesday, with 10 warrants in hand, police descended on the Cutler Manor Apartment complex at 10875 SW 216th St. and made 25 arrests. Afterward, at a gathering under a blazing sun in the parking lot of Southland Mall, the heads of the agencies involved in the arrests all promised that more were to come.

Police said criminal activity committed by the Yellow Tape gang now extends outside Cutler Manor, to neighboring Arthur Mays Villa and across U.S. 1 to crime-wracked Triangle Park in Goulds.

“They terrorize the community. There’s one way in and one way out, and they see you coming,” Perez said. “They (residents) have seen the violence. It’s up to us to break that cycle.”

By late afternoon Wednesday, police released the names of 19 people who were arrested and the crimes they are alleged to have committed. Most of the charges were for illegal drug sales and outstanding arrest warrants.

Police said more arrests were to come and searches for suspects would continue throughout the day and into the evening.

“We heard the pleas of the community calling for our protection,” said Wifredo Ferrer, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she has met with dozens of families who live in Cutler Manor.

“They told us they were frustrated and had reached their wits’ end,” she said. “Cutler Manor is like an ulcer down here. Even the management wanted help.”