MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber delivered his 2021 state of the city address Monday morning, during which he spoke about changing the culture of the city’s nightlife sector after incidents this past weekend led to almost 150 arrests.
“The entertainment district must go,” Gelber said, repeating his vision to replace the tourist party hub with an “Art Deco Cultural District.”
“We don’t need what we have right now,” Gelber added. “I urge my colleagues to be bold and resist the urge to make only incremental changes.”
Gelber also said he is committing to a “substantial” increase in police officers, and that he has asked Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to add additional county officers to areas of high tourism.
“Our city of 92,000 sometimes attracts over 200,000 visitors and workers in a single day,” he said.
Other initiatives to reduce crime include installing cameras in business corridors, creating a real-time crime center manned 24/7 and heightening code enforcement on businesses and people who flock to South Beach, the mayor said.
WATCH A REPLAY OF GELBER’S ADDRESS:
Gelber said the city’s crime rate has actually decreased in recent years but he noted that parts of South Beach are unsafe at times, largely because of crimes that are committed by visitors on other visitors.
“It could be all night drinking,” he said, noting “145 places have 5 a.m. permits and we don’t need any of it. We can tone it down.”
On a wild Friday night on South Beach, the city reported that nearly 120 people were arrested, including 42 of them for felonies. Multiple guns, drugs and cash were confiscated by police.
At one point, police used pepper balls to break up a scene, and two officers were injured.
“They need more resources,” Miami Beach resident Julia Verardi said. “At this point, I don’t feel safe here. So, I mean, what can I do?”
Police said the spring break crowds were calmer Saturday, when 30 arrests were made.
“We are not looking for an anything-goes crowd,” Gelber said. “We are not looking for people to break rules, and we’re going to have zero tolerance for it.”
In his address, Gelber also underlined how the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic was so difficult for a city whose economy is “tethered to hospitality.”
“We’re just not a community built for social distancing. That’s why it was so hard for us,” he said, also pointing out that Miami Beach was the first city in Florida to adopt a mask mandate.
Gelber said that, as of Monday morning, over 80% of the city’s senior citizens have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
He also said that the city got through the past year “financially sound” without raising taxes.
Local 10 News reporter Liane Morejon contributed information to this report.