Miami Beach Police Get Strict For Memorial Day Weekend
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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Miami Beach will be flooded with visitors this Memorial Day Weekend as part of the 13th annual Urban Beach Week, which is dubbed the largest Urban festival in the world.
Due to the large number of people expected, upwards of 300,000 to 350,000 people, Miami Beach police are implementing some new procedures to ensure the safety of residents and visitors alike.
A highly publicized shooting on Collins Avenue during the waning hours of Memorial Day weekend in 2011 prompted members of the community to protest the high-traffic, noise and other issues that dominate the long holiday weekend period.
Data reviewed by CBS4 News shows most of the people arrested last year during Memorial Day weekend actually came from other parts of South Florida. Only 8 percent of those arrested were Miami Beach residents. That’s why the City is looking to potentially use License Plate Readers during other major weekends.
City officials came up with an extensive traffic plan to discourage the general public from driving into residential neighborhoods.
For the first time ever, residents are going to have show “proof of residency” if they live in key sections west of Washington Avenue between 5th and 15th Streets and south of 5th street.
“Proof of residency is required so residents can have easier access while they are dealing with an unexpected amount of traffic that is double to triple the amount of a normal weekend,” said Miami Beach Police detective Vivian Hernandez.
When CBS4′s Peter D’Oench asked her what police had to say to people who felt these measures were unfair, she told D’Oench, “Unfortunately people have to realize they are guests in the city and residents are our number one priority. We need to make sure they are safe.”
Some residents who live west of Washington Avenue applaud the restrictions.
As Bethany Youngs walked her 7-year-old Wheaton Terrier named “Ziggy” along Pennsylvania Avenue, she said she could not help but think about the serious traffic problems and outbreaks of violence on previous Memorial Day Weekends on South Beach.
“I think it’s good that police try something,” Youngs told D’Oench. “They have to do something. It is always a mess with traffic out here.”
“I think it’s good for crowd control,” said Miami Beach resident Paul Johnson. “Safety is a huge issue. You have children around, having cookouts. There are families out there. And there are safety issues.”
But some like Miami Beach retail stylist Adrian Richards wondered how the city could enforce the restrictions.
“It’s going to be almost impossible to keep track of everyone out there,” said Richards. “How are they going to handle that? How are they going to put enough people out there to handle that?”
The American Civil Liberties Union is taking issue with the restrictions.
“We have been working with the city on these issues and the restrictions will make people feel unwelcome and cast the city in a poor light.,” said A.C.L.U. attorney Jeanne Baker.
John DeLeon of the A.C.L.U. echoed the same sentiments and said the city had not imposed similar restrictions for other events.
In addition, the City wants to minimize the impact for residents so certain streets will be open for local residents only.
Those road closures start Friday May 25th and will remain closed until Tuesday May 29th.
Here is the list of road closures:
- Ocean Drive will be shut down to vehicular traffic from 5th to 15th Street from 7:00 a.m. Friday to 7:00 a.m. Tuesday.
- Collins Avenue will be northbound traffic only between 5th to 15th Street from 7:00 a.m. Friday to 7:00 a.m. Tuesday.
- Washington Avenue will be southbound traffic only between 5th to 15th Street from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Proof of Residency will be required to enter the following residential areas:
- North of 5th Street to Lincoln Road from Washington Avenue west to Alton Road
- South of 5th Street to Government Cut
- Dade Blvd to 41st Street and Pine Tree Drive
A Traffic Loop will be activated Friday through Sunday from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. The Traffic Loop will send traffic north on Collins Avenue and South on Washington Avenue. Ocean Drive will be completely closed off to vehicular traffic.
Proof of residency will be required to enter the residential areas north of 5th Street – 11th Street from Washington Avenue west to Alton Road.
A DUI check point will be operational from Friday night-Saturday morning. There will be DUI saturation and enforcement throughout the remainder of the weekend.
The police department is also erecting 4 surveillance towers with video equipment where officers can rewind and view video. The cameras, which can see up to a mile, will be perched on four towers stationed in Lummus Park, on Collins Avenue and on the east end of the Lincoln Road Mall.
Police will also be using license tag readers for the first time along the Julia Tuttle and MacArthur Causeways, checking for expired registration, stolen vehicles and wanted vehicles. Vehicles with tags that kick back violations to police will be stopped.
Pairs of police will be stationed up and down Fifth Street, Ocean Drive, Collins and Washington Avenues.
The Venetian Causeway will be open only to Miami and Miami Beach residents, although restricted access will be based on the honor system.
The City will also continue using Goodwill Ambassadors. The program was started more than a decade ago, after the huge crowds attracted by what was then known as “Hip Hop Weekend” angered and intimidated residents, and led to what many called excessive police response and hundreds of arrests. Goodwill Ambassadors, all wearing red shirts, assist with crowd control issues, distribute courtesy litterbags and safety brochures, report service issues that need immediate attention and answer visitors’ questions.
Unlike major events such as the Miami International Boat Show, Super Bowl, South Beach Wine and Food Festival and Art Basel Miami Beach, the City of Miami Beach does not sponsor any of the Urban Beach Weekend events.
Police say they hope the new tactics and equipment will control the crowds that come to town not just for club events but for the jam-packed, non-sanctioned street parties on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue that have come to define the weekend since 2001.
Last year, hotel occupancy was at its highest Memorial Day weekend level in years, and tourism numbers remain high this year. Hoteliers, club owners and other select businesses pull in profits, while other businesses shutter their doors due to lack of business or chaos.
Many locals leave town or hole up in their homes.
The Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU will scrutinize how Miami Beach Police and city officials handle themselves.