Miami Beach added extra officers. Now business owners want them to stay

Program upped police patrols during tourist-heavy weekend nights

By Janine Stanwood - Anchor/Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Some business owners along iconic Ocean Drive have banded together to fight crime in an experimental program on Miami Beach.

The 12-week pilot program called TOPS, Tourist Oriented Policing Services, put extra off-duty Miami Beach officers on the west side of Ocean Drive during busy weekend hours.

Sixty percent of the officers' overtime was paid for by business owners who are part of the Ocean Drive Association.

The city of Miami Beach paid for 40 percent: $112,000 per city records. The program expired Aug. 19.

In a memo to Mayor Dan Gelber obtained by Local 10, the city manager wrote that in the 12 weeks of the TOPS program, there were no major incidents "where public safety was at extreme risk."

According to Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates, TOPS is one piece in a layered approach to policing the bustling entertainment district.

"You have more officers than ever on Ocean Drive?" Local 10's Janine Stanwood asked. 

"That's absolutely true, compared to four years ago," Oates said.

There are more regular full-time officers patrolling the heart of South Beach, Oates said, as well as an overlap shift which pumps up the officer count from 10 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. on weekends.

"They're very, very visible. And for that 2 1/2-hour period, they set a tone for the rest of the night with a very, very heavy police presence," Oates said.

At Mangos Tropical Cafe, owner David Wallack said TOPS should be renewed.

"It's been a very very big difference. Whenever you have uniformed officers walking on the west side of Ocean Drive, it changes the music, you might say, a little bit on the sidewalk," Wallack said.

Meanwhile, Oates said TOPS isn't necessarily over.

"We have to engage in a period of evaluation, which is almost complete. And I, of course, will be recommending to my chain of command -- my manager and the city commission --  that it be continued," Oates said.

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