Miami Beach hones its strategy as another spring break weekend nears

Local leaders are determining how to handle the potential of more large crowds this weekend, when curfews will be back in place on South Beach.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A much more toned-down Clevelander is back open Wednesday on Miami Beach, after the Ocean Drive hotspot voluntarily shut down last week over safety concerns for its workers and patrons.

All of this amid swarms of people packing South Beach in recent days, with some bringing disruptive behavior.

The crowd control measures this spring break season were a hot topic at a meeting Wednesday of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board, which is made up of activists, police and clergy from across the county.

“We will, I will and my colleagues will, police to bad behavior — not to race, not to ethnicity,” Debra Martineau, a neighborhood resource officer for the Miami Beach police, said at the meeting.

Earlier this week, some Black community leaders questioned whether race is playing role in the increase of police activity during spring break.

Dramatic images of police using pepper balls to diffuse rowdy crowds have made national news.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava joined the meeting virtually to weigh in.

“A great sadness,” she said. “Could it have been avoided? I’m sure we could’ve done more. We could’ve had more preparation, more activities, more care.”

An 8 p.m. curfew implemented over the weekend led to further problems Sunday when people who refused to leave were pushed out of Miami Beach’s entertainment district and into a residential neighborhood, where cars were jumped on and heavily damaged in the process.

City authorities have reported more than 1,000 arrests over the past six weeks.

Police are taking a more reactive approach with crowds instead of a preventative one, and they say they are making tweaks to what doesn’t work along the way.

“Rather than make a push, we’re sort of just let the crowd fizzle out,” Miami Beach Police Deputy Chief Wayne Jones said. “And the positive impact of that was they didn’t reach the residential neighborhoods, so we didn’t have issues like we did Sunday night.”

The city has been crunching the numbers on hotel occupancy and vacation rentals to get an idea of how many people are expected here this coming weekend. The numbers are expected to be slightly fewer than this past weekend.

The 8 p.m. curfew will be back in effect Thursday night through Sunday night for the entertainment district between 16th Street and 5th Street.

Leaders are also discussing being prepared for the potential of large crowds for Memorial Day in late May.

About the Author:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.