Dexter Filming Locations: The Police Station


The location: The Catering Truck.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. The Miami Metro Police Station.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. On the water's edge, in Miami.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. In Episode 10 (Season 2), "There's Something About Harry". We're in the parking lot outside the police station, where Dexter & Angel are buying Cuban food from a catering truck.

    Angel is trying to find something to do to entertain his children during their upcoming visit (he's divorced), and he asks Dexter for advice. Dexter mentions that he and Rita's children are just going to the beach.  Angel asks if he can come along, with his kids, and Dexter reluctantly agrees (warning Angel not to bring Lila along).

    When Angel leaves, Dexter gets a threatening text message (on Jiminez's cell phone) from a drug dealer angry about an uncompleted deal.

    Dexter later sends the dealer a message asking him to meet him at the cabin in the Everglades.

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. A parking lot in a residential strip mall, and an empty building.

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. The scene was filmed in the parking lot of a small center at 2300 Bellflower Blvd in Long Beach, CA.

    That's at the northeast corner of Bellflower Blvd & E 23rd Street. The parking lot is behind (north of) the Farmers & Merchants bank, at 2302 Bellflower Blvd.

    The stone block "police station" seen behind Dexter & Angel (when the camera is pointed north) is actually just an empty building at the east end of a small strip mall. As of mid-2008, the strip mall was mostly empty, and contained only a Noah's Bagels (at 2310 Bellflower Blvd) at its west end. To make the east end look like a police station, they simply added a flagpole and a little extra decoration to the storefront. (Plus, they tossed another palm tree in the parking lot.)

    This location is just around the corner from the "Dexter Neighborhood".

    The McDonald's, which can be glimpsed in the background of the scene (when the camera is pointed south), is located across E. 23rd Street, at 2290 Bellflower Blvd, in a Target store center.

    The two tall, red signs, that can also be briefly glimpsed in the background of the scene (and above, in the third photo from the top), are located in the parking lot of that Target center, at 2250 Bellflower Blvd (the signs read "Big Lots" & "Rite Aid").

    Now here's the odd thing: they filmed an almost identical scene, with a catering truck in the police station parking lot, just two episodes previously (at 16:38, in "Morning Comes"), and they used a completely different location.  For that earlier shot, they went to the old police station location which they had used for the entire first season (which really is just a fake exterior created against the side of a sound stage at Sunset-Gower studio).

    This latter catering truck scene, the one shot on Bellflower, in Long Beach, immediately follows another police station scene, which was set at the new Marina Del Rey location, (which was introduced late in the second season).  We didn't see the old police station exterior again until Episode 11, so perhaps something was preventing them from filming there, and they had to look for alternatives. Or perhaps they just thought that one parking lot was as good as another, and this one was close by...

    ( Update: In March of 2010, there was an attempted bank robbery at the F&M bank here. In a scene that sounds like something out of a movie, the "Sport Bike Bandit" (a black-leather-clad robber wearing a red helmet), wanted for a series of bank robberies, attempted to hold up the bank at gunpoint. But he got a surprise when customers in the bank jumped him. Shots were fired, three people were wounded, but the customers managed to subdue the robber and hold him until police arrived to take him away. Looks like the robber picked the wrong bank to try to hold up.)

    I shot the photo below in Sept. 2008

    Here is an aerial photo of the area, with the building marked. And here is a map link.

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. This one was difficult.

    There wasn't much to go on. But when I zoomed in on the background of the scene, I saw two things:

    • One was a tall, double sign in the distance (with red & white lettering).  The name on the sign started with an "R". I thought it probably said "Rite-Aid", but I wasn't positive.

    • The other clue was the unmistakable "golden arches" of a McDonald's, located across the street. Granted, I could only see the top half of that "M", but it was clearly their logo.

    The problem, of course, is that there are a zillion McDonald's in the L.A. area.

    Fortunately, this one had a few differences from the typical McDonald's.  It didn't have the usual bright red roof that is found atop most McDonald's restaurants, it had a horizontal stripe across the side, and that "M" on the wall, of course.

    So my first step was to locate every McDonald's in the L.A. basin, and eliminate all of them that had the traditional red roof. LiveLocal aerial photos allowed time-consuming process... That search left perhaps half a dozen McDonald's restaurants without a red roof.

    I then used Google StreetView to "drive" past them, one at a time, looking for details, such as the wall lamp visible above that "M". I lucked out here, when the second McDonald's I checked turned out to be the right one. And lo & behold, it also turned out to be just a stone's throw from the "Dexter Neighborhood" . I had even stopped at that McDonald's once or twice for a meal... But I had never really noticed the small center across the street.

    In the two photos below, if you look closely, you will notice the top of the familiar McDonald's golden arches logo on the wall of the building across the street. (I've blown up that portion to give you a better view.) Another shot (not included here) shows part of the restaurant's drive-through window.

    I then checked for that red, double sign, and found it in the parking lot of the nearby Target center.

    (This scene appears at 28:05 in Episode 10 of Season 2, if you want to try freeze-framing to see these details.)

    Then I drove there and shot a few photos matching the background view:

    I shot the photos below in Sept. 2008

    So, that makes at least four different locations where they filmed "Miami Metro Police Station" scenes: this one on Bellflower, the one in Marina Del Rey, the one at the Hotel Maya, and the original location (an exterior set at the studio). I wouldn't be surprised to find learn are even more...

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