Islamorada officials blast decision to dismantle mainland checkpoint

Village of Islamorada officials said Monroe County never consulted them before deciding to discontinue the mainland checkpoint in Florida City effective Tuesday, and that the decision makes the Upper Keys ripe for looting and traffic backups.

“We weren’t consulted on this,” Islamorada Councilman Mike Forster said during a county conference call Tuesday with other local, state and federal officials. “It was nothing we were informed about.”

The county announced Monday that the checkpoint would be gone by Tuesday morning. It followed the opening of the Keys to all residents over the weekend. The Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Monday that many residents are returning to major damage caused by Hurricane Irma, and they need help cleaning their properties and fixing their homes.

“Many people need to bring in friends, family members and contractors to begin work on their homes and property,” Deputy Becky Herrin, the agency’s media relations officer said in a statement.

Therefor, keeping the checkpoint in place would make it difficult for Keys residents to bring in supplies and the manpower needed to get repairs done, county officials said.

But Forster said the decision is already creating traffic and looting issues in the Upper Keys.

“Traffic is insane up here. It’s the wrong thing to do to open the road up,” Forster said during Tuesday’s call. “It’s a life-safety issue. People are just rolling in here with no IDs.”

Herrin said that while the Sheriff’s Office is keeping an eye out for looters, it’s not been a significant issue since Irma tore through the Keys, leaving many homes severely damaged and vulnerable.

“Looting is not rampant,” Herrin said.

There have been some cases of looting, Herrin said, but not by people from the mainland.

“The only looting we’ve had are local people,” she said.