MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Ocean drive is packed with party-goers as Memorial Day weekend gets started.
“Party, enjoy the beach, bask in the sun,” said Chaznie Presley who is visiting from California. “And look at all these beautiful people oh my god.”
Women in barely-there bikinis and shirtless men danced in the streets to kick off Urban Beach weekend.
With a mix of alcohol and drug use during one of the busiest weekends on South Florida’s shores, the scene has a reputation of getting rough.
“Especially at night time it gets a little rough, it’s good to see the security and all the lights and everything,” said John Dukes from Homestead.
To handle the massive crowds, 400 officers are patrolling during peak hours on foot, bikes and from towers. What they can’t see is captured on 21 cameras around the city, monitored at a command post at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
“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’.”
Police have made 131 arrests as of Saturday evening, which is actually about 30 less than last year at the same time.
“The arrests are mostly minor offenses like disorderly intoxication, minor drug offenses, so right now it’s right in line,” said Bobby Hernandez with the Miami Beach Police Department. “One year we had one thousand arrests in one weekend so this year were in tune with making same amount of arrests as last year, a little bit less.”
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.
Also 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 – a $140,000 light tactical all-terrain vehicle, similar to the ones used in the military.
Roughly 400 officers per shift from multiple agencies will pack the streets of Miami Beach.
Police will use license plate readers on the causeways to quickly scan for stolen vehicles or owners with outstanding felony warrants.
Thousands of people are expected to pack South Beach. In the past, crowds have surged from upwards of 300,000 to 350,000 people over the long weekend. Many locals leave town or hole up in their homes.
The party on South Beach begins Thursday night and wrap up late Monday night.
Ocean Drive will be closed to vehicle traffic and a traffic loop will be in effect between Collins Ave. and Washington Ave.
Miami Beach wants to minimize the impact for residents so certain streets will be open for local residents only.
Those road closures start Friday and will remain closed until Tuesday.
For crowd management purposes, a traffic loop will manage public traffic along 5 Street, Washington and Collins avenues.