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A crime reporter with taste - and an eye for detail

(Page 2 of 2)

Despite high crime rates, she emphasizes that the average prudent, law-abiding citizen faces little real danger.

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``Most people who get murdered take some part in their own demise,'' she says. ``They're doing something they shouldn't at the time they're killed. If they're not dealing in drugs, they're robbing or stealing or doing some other criminal activity, or beating up their spouse, who eventually retaliates with deadly force. Or they're fighting in traffic with a stranger who has a short temper and a loaded gun in the glove compartment, or fighting over a parking space, or brawling in bars, seeing who's more macho. A lot of them have drugs or alcohol aboard, or both, when it happens.''

In Buchanan's early days on the job, policewomen were assigned to low-risk cases such as shoplifting and juvenile runaways. Now, she says, women work as homicide detectives or patrol the ghetto at midnight in patrol cars - ``and they're doing a terrific job.''

Similarly, although most crime reporters are still men, Buchanan thinks women bring special talents to the field, such as ``a better eye for detail. And maybe we have more curiosity, and better gut feelings on occasion, or intuition. I think women in many ways are stronger than men.''

Even so, she cautions young women that crime reporting is ``kind of tough on your personal life, because major crimes don't usually occur 9-to-5 Monday through Friday.'' Describing her own personal life as ``very simple and quiet,'' Buchanan says she relaxes by listening to music, walking her dog, caring for four cats, and working on a novel.

``I don't really take work home with me,'' she explains. ``I try to give it my best shot and work as hard as I can every day. When I go home, I know I did everything I could, and I try not to think about it anymore until the next day.''

Still, there are fringe benefits. For all her contact with the dark and seamy side of Miami, Buchanan loves the city she and her mother first saw nearly 20 years ago during a two-week vacation from Paterson, N.J., where Buchanan worked in a coat factory.

So great is her affection for her adopted home that she carries tokens of it with her: a custom-made gold necklace that spells I LOVE MIAMI, and a smooth white shell she picked up on her beloved beach. Rubbing her fingers over it, she explains:

``I put this in my pocket and take it with me when I leave town. It's like taking Florida sand in your shoes. If you don't have a cat to stroke, it's the next best thing.''

And then there are the rewards of the job itself.

``It's a joy to write the happy-ending stories, the hero stories,'' she says. Her favorites involve heroes who are ``just average people'' - businessmen, housewives, truck drivers.

``When people do something wonderful, you know it's going to be the best-read story in the paper,'' she says. ``Readers love those kinds of stories. You also give these people recognition for what they've done, which is a very exciting thing to do.

``What drives you is the joy of accomplishment. You can change the law, you can put people in jail, get people out of jail, you can right wrongs. Sometimes you're the only person who can help. Then you feel like Superwoman.''