MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – The barricades are going out and signs banning parking are going up as Miami Beach prepares for a massive influx of party-goers to arrive in just three days.
“This year we looked at everything possible that we could do to make sure that we have a safe environment,” Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez told CBS4.
Martinez has his hands full, rolling out the most aggressive crowd control plan ever done here. It includes the use of 600 officers, a DUI checkpoint entering the beach and scanning every license plate pulling onto the island.
The moves have drawn criticism that the beach will become a police state, unlike any other major event that they have had.
Martinez responded to the criticism Tuesday, saying, “Well, I think Memorial Day weekend is unlike any other major event that we have here. It’s really an issue of capacity. Earlier today we gave the analogy of a stadium. You can only fit so many people into the stadium.”
The city is dropping nearly $2 million dollars to control the crowd. From deadly police-involved shootings to total disregard for residents and businesses; Martinez hopes to avoid problems this year by arresting people.
According to Miami Beach’s police union the order this weekend is for “patrol officers will need to meet an arrest quota of 2,000 arrests.” That’s twice the record of roughly a thousand set a few years ago.
Martinez explained Tuesday it’s not an order, but a directive to be more strict.
“I think if you let the smaller problems go, the smaller things, later on become bigger problems and it’s really an officer safety thing.” Martinez said.
The police department has been reviewing policies with their officers the past few weeks. It was a refresher course on things like use of force, deadly force, even the public’s right to film them with their cell phones. Call them lessons from the past. If things become too wild the city is prepared to shut down the causeway.
Miami Beach 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.
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.