MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – After a fatal police-involved shooting in Miami Beach last Memorial Day weekend, city officials are taking precautions to make sure that the hundreds of thousands of people expected this year stay safe.
About 200,000 vacationers are expected in South Beach for Urban Beach Week in late May. The event has been going on since 2001, and more people visit Miami Beach during Memorial Day weekend than during all six weeks of spring break.
During last year's event, nearly a dozen officers fired more than 100 shots at a driver who was barreling toward police officers. One person died and four others were wounded.
Miami Beach officials are making plans to avoid a repeat.
"Last year was the first time we had a police-involved shooting," said Miami Beach Assistant City Manager Hilda Fernandez. "We obviously are very concerned about the safety of folks that come in to our destination."
They are so concerned, that security cameras will be placed all over the entertainment district of South Beach. The city said it will spend nearly $2 million on increased law enforcement and other measures. Ocean Drive will be closed and four camera towers will be set up between 5th and 15th streets. The cameras can record video and zoom in up to a mile away.
They also will have license plate readers on the Julia Tuttle and MacArthur causeways, which will swipe the information of every car making its way to Alton Road. A DUI checkpoint will be in place on Interstate 395 from the Friday before Memorial Day until Saturday morning.
"We have to do whatever is necessary so that anyone who lives here, who chooses to visit us, is going to be safe," Fernandez said.
Miami Beach leaders said they have to spend so much money on the event because there are no formal organizers.
"This is an event that creates volume, and for us, we have to manage how that volume affects the city, how it impacts traffic, how it impacts safety," Fernandez said.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it is investigating whether the license plate readers are legal, although other South Florida cities have used them in the past.
Miami Heat star and Miami Beach resident Dwyane Wade has become the official spokesman for the Memorial Day weekend. His image is being used to encourage people to "Respect the Scene."
In the coming weeks, you can expect to see signs and hear radio spots featuring Wade and Udonis Haslem asking all the visitors to follow the laws while in town celebrating.
One poster featuring Wade says, "No one likes litter. Stash your trash. Alcoholic drinks stay inside. It's the law. Turn down the volume. Keep noise to a minimum. Keep glass containers off the beach."