P1 First Person: Undercover in the OCB
By Sheriff Bob Durkis (ret.)
Hendry County, Florida
My law enforcement career began in 1961 upon graduating from the Miami-Dade Police Academy. I served three years as a road patrol officer and then motorcycle officer for five years. In 1969 I transferred to the Organized Crime Bureau in a newly formed gambling unit. There was little emphasis placed on fighting this type of crime until this OCB unit was expanded. My unit was to be involved in pursuing bookmakers, poker gaming establishments, and busting bolita houses.
Bolita was — and probably still is — one of the most popular numbers betting vices in the Cuban-American and African-American communities. Numbers are drawn on a daily basis out of a bag full of numbered ping pong balls, very similar to today’s Lotto games that are legitimate in several states. My assignments were executed in whatever clothing or disguise techniques deemed necessary to pull off the investigation. Two of my most productive undercover operations were the takedown of an established liquor lounge involved in big time gambling that had connections to organized crime. This night club investigation amounted to an owner who ran bookmaking on all major sporting events and distributed football parlay cards. To work my way into his trust, I borrowed a Ford car dealership mechanic’s uniform from my neighbor and began patronizing the bar every evening. I rubbed grease from under the hood of my rented unmarked car on my arms and uniform to look authentic.