Miami Beach officials want to keep this year’s Spring Break parties to a dull roar with a new enforcement blitz aimed at keeping booze, litter and loud music off the sand.
The strategy includes a ban on coolers, tents and inflatable devices on the beach, along with stricter enforcement of the existing ban on alcohol on the sand. Neighborhood streets would also be closed off to nonresidents, and noise limitation on amplified music would be enforced.
Police would also use license plate readers on the causeways to check for outstanding warrants and stolen cars.
The city already employs similar measures during Memorial Day weekend, including a deployment of hundreds of police officers and traffic control. The increased police presence has drawn criticism, though the department has reported fewer arrests and incidents in recent years.
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Beach officials pledged to keep parties under control after a busy spring season last year during which enormous crowds led cops to shut down Ocean Drive one night.
In particular, an informal event known as “Floatopia” angered residents and commissioners last year after thousands of people flooded the beach and left behind heaps of plastic floatables, bottles and cans on the beach and overflowing from public trash cans.
“People would just take off and leave behind all their trash,” said Michael DeFilippi, a South Beach resident and activist who created the Facebook group Clean Up Miami Beach. He saw firsthand the mess left behind by revelers on the beach and took pictures of cans and bottles peppering the sand near the water throughout the Spring Break season.
“The tide would come up and all the trash was getting pulled out,” he said, adding that Floatopia was the worst instance of this.
That mess prompted City Manager Jimmy Morales to develop a plan for “high-impact” events that attract more than 5,000 people to a 15-block stretch of the beach. Typically, Ocean Drive from 15th Street to South Pointe is the epicenter of Spring Break partying.
Morales and the police department used crowd estimates from previous years to determine March 3 through April 16 as an upcoming “high-impact period” when the city anticipates taking temporary measures to control crowds, Morales said in a memo to commissioners.
The six weeks include Winter Music Conference and Spring Break for both colleges and high schools, all of which draw large numbers of visitors to the Beach.
During the same period last year, Ocean Rescue estimated 136,330 visitors on South Beach per weekend. Packed parking garages and hotel occupancy rates also confirm the Beach’s appeal as warmer temperatures arrive.
“These periods reflect historically high attendance on Miami Beach beachfront property, due to the schedule of various Florida and Georgia college spring breaks, as well as Miami-Dade high school spring break,” Morales said in the memo.
Morales said he’d notify the commission and news media specifically when the measures would kick in. The police, emergency management and other city departments will be on full staff, and goodwill ambassadors will roam the area to educate people about the regulations.
Cops will patrol the sand on foot and on ATVs, and they will check visitors as well as beach access points.
“As in the past, there will be checkpoints, both entering and exiting the beach, to check for the items that are prohibited,” said city spokeswoman Tonya Daniels.
When crowds swell, Ocean Rescue workers and police will establish occupancy limits and prevent people from entering packed sections of the beach.