MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Miami Beach business owners are prepared for the crazy party atmosphere during Memorial Day Weekend’s annual holiday party, Urban Beach Week, but some aren’t too excited about the new heightened security levels.
Robert Dessommes, manager of the News Café on Ocean Drive at 8th Street, said he and other managers aren’t expecting much business year compared to previous years.
“Eveywhere, all kinds of [police] vehicles, vans, cars and helicopters.” said Dessommes. “It’s good because we need to protect our city and us who live here, but it’s bad because it really scares people away,”
Eighteen surveillance cameras placed throughout the city, in partnership with the Miami-Dade Police Department, will help alert officers if trouble occurs. At the Beacon Hotel manager Christain Mena said they have their security under control.
“We have a state trooper inside who will be here working 24 hours, here from Thursday to Saturday,” said Mena.
Mena said their bookings are off this year compared to last year.
“Other years were very busy and we were always sold out, but not this year,” said Mena.
Other hotel managers said they were experiencing the same situation.
“You know like before we were sold out, but this year is a little bit slow,” said Edith Eubanks, Avalon Hotel manager.
So what could be the cause of the sluggish sales?
“This weekend, Memorial Day weekend, in the past few years has become a thing where people are afraid to come, so we fully lose revenue,” said Dessommes.
The Miami Beach Police Department has plans in place to maintain security as thousands are expected to pack and party along SoBe this weekend.
Roughly 400 officers per shift from multiple agencies will man the streets of Miami Beach. 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.
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. “There’s no other vehicle like this on the market at this time.”
A camera onboard the LTV 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.
“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’.”
Prevention takes a lot of planning, which started not long after last year’s festivities ended.
The goal of the extra security 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.
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 last year’s improvements in 2013.
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.