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Police swarm South Beach as officers attempt to stem misbehavior on St. Patrick’s Day

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – St. Patrick’s Day revelry and drinking will befall on South Beach, as police officers face rowdy tourists on their spring break vacation. This is all amid the risks of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday night was the latest full of misbehavior in Miami Beach, this time met by another surge of police.

“We haven’t seen this amount of police presence on a Wednesday night in quite a while,” said Miami Beach Police Asst. Chief Paul Acosta.

Acosta said it’s about playing offense, not defense.

“It’s a no tolerance approach,” he said. “We are going to make arrests.”

Commissioners met on Wednesday morning to discuss safety efforts. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said the visitors who are not abiding by the city’s rules have forgotten there is a pandemic.

“It has felt at times that this city is under a level of siege, simply from the volume of people that are coming ... a certain percentage of them want to let loose in ways that are inconsistent with appropriate behavior,” Gelber said during the meeting.

Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements told commissioners he is assembling a bigger team to deal with the crowds. His department has backup from both the Miami-Dade and the Coral Gables police departments.

“We are going into our fifth week and we expect this to be our busiest week and we’re gearing up accordingly,” Clements said.

Miami-Dade police officers help the Miami Beach Police Department on Monday in South Beach.

Since Feb. 3rd, officers have arrested about 900 suspects and about 50% of them are not from Florida, according to the Miami Beach Police Department. Officers have also issued about 5,000 traffic citations and seized 78 firearms.

Most of Clements’ efforts have focused on one area in South Beach.

‘PROBLEM AREA’

All package liquor sales have to cease after 8 p.m. in the area of Ocean Drive, and Collins and Washington avenues, between Fifth and 16th streets. Sales for the rest of the city cease at 10 p.m.

About 540 of the 900 arrests made since Feb. 3rd were in this area, known as the Art Deco Cultural District. There was also a fatal shooting that is under investigation.

Miami Beach police officers shot pepper balls to disperse a crowd on Friday near Ocean Drive in South Beach.

On Monday, there were shell casings and blood on Collins Avenue and Sixth Street. The shooting victim, Sowe Amadu, 27, a Miami Beach resident, turned up about 20 minutes later on the 2400 block of Pine Tree Drive. He died.

“It wasn’t just a shooting, but it was I think probably throngs of people almost running through the streets,” Gelber said during the meeting.

That same night there were people dancing on top of Gene Robert Duplessy’s taxi. The 61-year-old driver wound up in the hospital after a dancer stomped on his arm.

“What we saw Monday night was an unexpected crowd size that we had never experienced,” Clements said during the meeting.

Women jumped onto a police car to twerk on it on Friday night in South Beach.

Last week, there were people throwing bottles at police officers on Collins Avenue and 11th Street, police said. Women twerked on a police car. Two officers were injured while facing a crowd near Eighth Street and Ocean Drive, police said.

“Most of the bad incidents are happening on the streets and we seem to have lost control of our streets,” Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora said.

Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola also had concerns.

“We’re constantly trying to fight this battle and I don’t know if we’re making a lot of headway,” Arriola said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered local government fines related to pandemic rules from March 2020 to March 11 invalid. Miami Beach commissioners said they fear Miami-Dade County will lift the curfew. Spring break season ends on April 12.

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