MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Beach police are bringing in reinforcements to help them deal with sometimes raucous Spring Break crowds on the beach and Ocean Drive.
Police chief Dan Oates said the plan is to have 301 Miami Beach officers on the street along with 70 from nearby communities, for a total of 371.
Oates said there are also going to be a lot more restrictions.
“It’s not an easy job dealing with 15,000, twenty-something a day who are here to revel and party, who do not particularly respond well to our efforts,” Oates added.
The new plan, according to Oates, is to get tough on the rowdy Spring Breakers.
Two or more officers are being stationed at the intersections of 5th Street & Collins, and 5th & Washington. Officers are also being deployed at fixed posts at every intersection on Collins and Washington from 6th street up to Lincoln Road.
Starting Friday, two dozen officers in protective gear will patrol the beach throughout the weekend and seize alcohol and drugs. Barricades and all-terrain vehicles will be used to disperse crowds and prisoner transport vans will be parked on the beach to remind Spring Breakers to obey the rules.
“Going into those crowds and you see drinkers, you remove liquor, coolers, and boom boxes from the crowd area all day long. It’s going to be challenging work, at times it might not be pretty,” said City Manager Jimmy Morales.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber explained that is a big part of the problem is day drinking on the beach which leads to trouble later.
“People are coming on to Ocean Drive, they’ve been drinking, maybe smoking pot. It becomes a block party and then it becomes something worse than that. We’re trying to stop that from happening,” he said.
Police figure the best way to stop it is stop the booze from flowing on the beach.
“If you have an open container, beer or liquor in it, they’re going to ask you politely to pour it out and if you don’t they’re going to arrest you. And if you’re smoking pot they’re going to ask you to put it out, if you don’t they’re going to arrest you,” said Gelber.
Many spring breakers weren’t too happy when they heard about the crackdown.
“But you can’t take alcohol off the beach in Miami, cause like, it’s Miami,” said “Austin.”
Technically it’s already not allowed, but the mayor said the open container laws are rarely enforced, until now.
“One of the big things they’re going to be focusing on is drinking on the beach. Okay, so not at all, they don’t want us to do it at all? No. I mean, that’s a little,,,” said Emily Head.
“I feel like it’s fair but if you’re over 21 I feel you should be allowed to drink on the beach,” said Skylar Beckert.
The city is also stepping up code enforcement and citing establishments in violation, like this past weekend when one club was cited and shut down for being over capacity.
During an emergency hearing on Tuesday, commissioners got an earful from residents who say this bad behavior has been going on for at least 20 years but it’s getting worse.
According to one resident, out of town college students aren’t all to blame for the bad behavior.
“This is not Spring Break, these are not college kids, maybe there’s a few mixed in. There are people who come here because they know Miami Beach does not do anything about it but talk, talk, talk,” said Nancy Liebman who has lived on Miami Beach for 60 years.
Of the 97 people arrested last weekend, more than half were from the tri-county area.
Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán said she wanted wants the city to come up with some policies to curtail Spring Break tourism and make Miami Beach a less attractive destination for partygoers.
“I think we need to eliminate this spring break phenomenon as soon as possible,” she said. “I think we need to make it a lot less fun to be here, unfortunately.”
City officials said this year’s crowds have been about a third larger than last year, with more boozing, brawling, and drugs.
Here is a sobering fact; the cost of spring break to Miami Beach taxpayers in 2017-18 was $1.078 million.
In 2018-19 the original projection was $1.1 million. Now that number is up to $1.5 million.