Crime Tours & Museum, an educational and entertaining attraction that provides a fascinating look into South Florida’s colorful – and criminal – past, has relocated to Downtown Hollywood.
Visitors to the 2,000-square-foot museum at 115 S. 21st Ave., which celebrated its grand opening Dec. 21, can peruse floor-to-ceiling displays and exhibits including a recreation of the 1929 murder of mobster Thomas “Fatty” Walsh at Coral Gables’ Biltmore Hotel, take a photo behind bars in a black-and-white striped inmate uniform and sit on a replica of “Old Sparky.”
Three 60- to 75-minute guided tours on video-equipped, climate-controlled buses are also offered for those who want to delve into Crime History, Black History or Florida History.
Crime Tours & Museum first opened three years ago in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. The expanding museum collection necessitated a temporary move to a warehouse in Downtown Fort Lauderdale until a permanent home was found in Hollywood’s historic downtown arts, music and entertainment district.
Founder Chris Mancini estimates that museum memorabilia now exceed 1,000 pieces, including old photos and famous mug shots, original newspapers, devices such as lie detectors and other artifacts.
A crime history buff and attorney who hails from Upstate New York, Mancini was “introduced to the dark side of South Florida” 40 years ago as a new hire in the U.S. Attorney’s Office dealing with increased crime generated by the Mariel Boatlift.
Florida’s notorious history begins in 1539 with the first mass slaughter of Native Americans in North America, by the Spanish, and encompasses pre-Civil War slavery, Prohibition, illegal gambling, drug smuggling and modern financial crimes such as Ponzi schemes.
“You can’t separate history from crime or crime from history,” Mancini said. “South Florida has always profited from crime.”
Some South Florida crimes have been re-enacted as a series of shorts airing at the end of “Death in Paradise” on WLRN Public Television. “The “Case of The Clinking Brassieres” short was recently nominated for an Emmy. It tells the tale of counting room employees at Southern Bell Telephone Company in Miami in the 1950s who stole $100,000 in quarters stashed in their bras.
The Crime Museum is overseen by Crime History Inc., a nonprofit charitable organization that welcomes donations of items of historical significance and will be partnering with the Hollywood Historical Society on panel discussions and walking tours. Ongoing museum events starting in January are Troubled Tuesdays, featuring exhibit discussions and guest speakers, and Felony Flick Fridays. Tickets are $20 per event and include refreshments.
Mancini signed a long-term lease on the Downtown Hollywood site because of the business-friendly attitude, downtown improvements and the city’s “commitment to cultural growth.”
“Hollywood welcomed us with open arms,” Mancini said. “I think Hollywood’s the next big thing on the map. We’re here to stay.”
Crime Museum hours are 11 am to 6 pm Monday – Thursday, 11 am to 7 pm Friday, and 10 am to 5 pm Saturday. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for ages 3-17 and $15 for a 30-minute guided tour. A guided bus tour is $25, or $35 for a combination bus tour and guided museum tour.
For more information, call 954-300-1063 or visit www.CrimeToursMuseum.com.
Downtown Hollywood offers on-street metered parking for $1.50 per hour, as well as municipal garage parking for $1 per hour. Municipal garage locations are 251 S. 20th Ave. (between Harrison and Van Buren streets) and 251 N. 19th Ave. (between Tyler and Polk streets).
For more information about redevelopment projects, businesses and events in Hollywood’s Downtown and Beach Districts, call the Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) at 954-924-2980 or visit www.hollywoodcra.org.