Miami Police Domain Crisis

If you want to find the Miami Police online, you’d probably type in miamipolice.com, right?

Not anymore.

While the Miami Police Department owns several web domains that all route to one official website, the department lost its most logical domain name, miamipolice.com, when they did not pay to renew it two years ago, according to an email from the Miami Police Department I.T. division sent to NBC Miami by the police media relations office.

“We owned miamipolice.com for one year only and opted not to renew because we didn’t actively use it and budgets were tightening,” the statement says.

The cost to renew a domain? $35.

Despite several warnings two years ago from a concerned citizen who follows domain auctions that the domain miamipolice.com was about to expire and go to auction, no action was taken. So it was bought by an out-of-state cybersquatter who gets paid each time someone clicks on his miamipolice website. While it’s against the law for the proud new owner of miamipolice.com to pretend his website is the official Miami police website, he still lists loosely related topics that lead to other websites. And advertisers pay him for each click.

That’s how the domain industry works, according to Ari Goldberger, one of the top domain lawyers in the U.S. and an investor in lucrative domain portfolios.

“People looking for the miamipolice.com are going to go to this other party’s,” he said, “and some people might think it’s the actual Miami Police Department.”

The warning emails went to several top people including former Police Chief Miguel Exposito, and several at Miami City Hall including Mayor Tomas Regalado. The first email said, “If not renewed…the domain name will be sold in a private auction….” to someone “intent on exploiting the domain’s considerable” value. “There is simply no time to waste.”

After that deadline was missed, the same concerned citizen wrote another: “I am astounded that none of you appear to have given the slightest heed…”

“But the domain can still be salvaged by paying a redemption stage renewal fee of $150,” the citizen noted, before “cybersquatters or cybercriminals…exploit the notoriety of the Miami Police Department.”

Still, police opted not to renew.

Police spokesman Delrish Moss underscored that not having miamipolice.com does not affect police services at all, and that a small purchase here and a small purchase there adds up in times of severe budget crunches.

The police statement also said: “From the time we established an Internet presence, we have always used miami-police.org (we also own miami-police.com) and our internal network is miami-police.net. Miami-Police.org is the only address that we use for external email as well.”

Still, several experts say the benefit to the police department clearly warranted spending the $35 renewal fee.

“You always want to get the best domain name,” said Goldberger, who was not involved with the miamipolice.com auction. “It’s a very valuable asset and should be treated as such.”