MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Sun, sand, music and heightened security pretty much sums up Memorial Day Weekend on South Beach.
The Miami Beach Police Department is currently preparing for the annual holiday weekend party, commonly referred to as Urban Beach Week, by beefing up security as much as possible.
“Prevention is key,” said Detective Vivian Hernandez.
Prevention takes a lot of planning, which started not long after last year’s festivities ended.
Cameras, both mobile and stationary, have been installed throughout the city. Ready to be deployed throughout the city of Miami Beach are a total of 62 light towers, twelve visual messaging boards and three watch towers.
Roughly 400 officers per shift from multiple agencies will pack the streets of Miami Beach.
In addition to extra bikes and ATVs, the Police Department has a new vehicle on loan referred to as an LTV.
CBS 4 News had the exclusive first look at this 140-thousand dollar light tactical all-terrain vehicle, similar to the ones used in the military.
“This is the only one of its kind,” an officer explained to CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana. “There’s no other vehicle like this on the market at this time.”
But instead of war zones overseas, cops will use it to protect the city of Miami Beach, as well as its residents and visitors.
“A dark beach at night, I would compare it to a dark alley in a big city,” said the officer.
The camera uses infrared technology to detect heat signatures on the beach, so even in the dead of night, officers can see people on a small screen mounted inside the vehicle.
“We could easily pick up a heat signature on this camera close to 3/4 of a mile away,” the officer explained.
In a tech truck about a mile from the heart of the action, another network of surveillance cameras can be viewed on one giant screen.
Eighteen cameras placed throughout the city, in partnership with the Miami-Dade Police Department, will help alert officers if trouble occurs.
“When a crowd develops, people watching those cameras can let the officers know, ‘Hey, please respond to that area. Make sure everybody is safe. Make sure nothing is developing or becoming a problem’.”
The goal is to avoid chaos, like the incident that occurred two years ago when officers shot and killed a man they claim was driving erratically on Collins Avenue, by preventing it.
The family of the driver, Raymond Herisse, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the police department.
In 2012, cops called the holiday weekend’s event a big success, and are hoping to build-on those improvements in 2013.
“We take every year into account to make the next year a lot better,” Det. Hernandez said.
Police will use license plate readers on the causeways to quickly scan for stolen vehicles or owners with outstanding felony warrants.
In addition, a massive DUI checkpoint is planned for the MacArthur Causeway heading into the beach on Friday night.
Also, Ocean Drive will be closed to vehicle traffic and a traffic loop will be in effect between Collins Ave. and Washington Ave.