MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) — A section of Ocean Drive on Miami Beach is now closed for the weekend and visitors are celebrating Memorial Day weekend on Miami Beach.
“I’m expecting to drink, to have fun, to meet people from different areas, party, just have a great time on the beach,” said visitor Gabrielle Brown.
With more than 100,000 people expected to pack the beach this weekend, police are out in full force. About 600 officers will keep an eye on the crowds. In addition to patrols, they’ve set up lights and towers as well as cameras.
Friday night, a Blackhawk flew up and down the shoreline while officers conducted a DUI checkpoint for drivers.
From the mobile command center parked on Ocean Drive officers can watch what’s going on outside, they also have access to computers and police radios.
Other officers are working out of a command post at the convention center where they can monitor more than 30 live cameras for traffic issues or other potential incidents.
“I think it’s pretty safe. I think it’s safer than Chicago right now,” said Valentino Elliott who’s visiting from Chicago.
His friend Jordan McCann says he hopes it stays that way. “I like to see everybody relaxing and enjoying themselves,” he said
Most visitors said they don’t mind the heightened police presence.
“It’s a good number of cops. It can be safe and fun,” said Bre Ski.
“It’s good. There’s so many people from different areas. You don’t know what their intentions are. You don’t know how they act when they’re drunk so it makes us feel a lot safer,” added visitor Jasmine Alston.
Overnight Thursday into Friday, the first night of the holiday weekend Police made 27 arrests wrote 96 citations and responded to 244 calls for service. All those numbers are down from last year when officers made 55 arrests, wrote 205 citations and responded to 320 call for service.
Sgt. Bobby Hernandez said, “It is a zero tolerance area. You’re not going to get away with stuff that you’d get away with on a regular weekend on Memorial Day weekend.”
Hundreds of volunteers known as good will ambassadors will help police all weekend.
“We’re basically like a buffer between the police officers and the crowd so basically calm down the crowd and help them out,” said volunteer Ariel Urena.The crowds and traffic congestion are enough to make some residents leave the beach for the weekend, but Jamie DeRosa hopes they ‘ll stick around. His restaurant, Tongue And Cheek will stay open through the holiday weekend.
“We’re trying to stay open to cater to the locals, regulars who have come and expect the place to be open for brunch,” he said.
He admits business was slow last year and thinks traffic changes are largely to blame.
“It was just a month after we opened. We tried to open Friday and Saturday – didn’t see much business then, and we decided to close Sunday and Monday,” he explained.
This year he’s scaled back staffing a little, but he hopes people will be used to the new traffic patterns and he’ll be able to attract locals and visitors. The restaurant will even open for brunch on Memorial Day although it’s usually closed on Mondays.
“We want to support the community activities and if that measns we need to stay open for Memorial Day weekend and support the tourists that are coming that are looking to have a good safe time.”
Traffic and parking restrictions will be in effect throughout the weekend.
For crowd management purposes, a traffic loop will manage public traffic along 5 Street, Washington and Collins Avenues. Alton Road will remain two-way traffic. Barricades will restrict residential areas to “local traffic only” (residents may ask for Miami Beach ID). East/west streets (100 and 200 blocks) will be restricted between Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive, 6 to 15 streets. Local residents with the properly zoned decals will be allowed to park.
– Ocean Drive will be closed Friday May 23, 7:00 a.m. through Tuesday, May 27, 7:00 a.m. Some access to the east/west streets (100 and 200 blocks) between Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive, 6 to 15 streets, will also be restricted. Local residents with the proper zoned decals will be allowed to enter.
– Collins Avenue will be one-way northbound nightly 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. (Friday-Monday). No street parking will be allowed on Collins Avenue between 5 and 15 streets as those lanes will be used to extend pedestrian pathways. Valet operations will also be moved – guests should check with the hotel for location.
– Washington Avenue will be one-way southbound nightly 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. (Friday-Monday). Access to east/west streets between 5 and 17 streets will be restricted.
– Alleys must be maintained clear of vehicles at all times and will be strictly enforced.
– Causeways: DUI Checkpoint: 7:00 p.m. Friday to 5:00 a.m. Saturday. DUI saturation throughout the weekend. License plate readers nightly on causeways into Miami Beach.
– Bus Transportation: Miami-Dade Transit including The South Beach Local has numerous routes to, from and around the city.
– Special Parking: All city-owned parking lots and garages will have normal operations with the exception of South Pointe Park, Nikki Beach, and 46 Street lots ($25.00/visitors and $6.00/residents).
– Valet Ramp Relocations: Ocean Drive to the 100 blocks of 7, 9, 12, and 14 streets: Collins Avenue to the 200 blocks of 9, 10, 12, and 13 streets; and Washington Avenue to the 600 and 1200 blocks of Washington Avenue.
A Memorial Day ceremony will take place at 10:00 a.m., Monday May 26 at the Miami Beach Police Station located at 1100 Washington Avenue.