Miami Beach is again preparing for large crowds on Memorial Day weekend with changing traffic patterns, hundreds of police officers and DUI checkpoints.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors typically arrive for a weekend of hip-hop music events known as Urban Beach Week. The festivities don’t have one sole organizer and are not sponsored by the city. Several unaffiliated performances and parties will take place at different venues.
The city will close Ocean Drive to vehicular traffic, change traffic patterns on Collins and Washington Avenues and deploy about 500 cops throughout South Beach, 200 of which are coming from agencies throughout Miami-Dade County.
The force will have about 100 fewer officers than last year. The decrease in cops mirrors steadily declining arrest totals through the last few years.
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“It’s been a significant downward trend,” said Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez.
Memorial Day weekend has been marked by violence over the years. In 2011, Raymond Herisse, driving down Collins Avenue erratically around 4 a.m. on Memorial Day 2011, was shot dead in a hail of bullets fired by police. A year later, a homeless man had a portion of his face chewed off by Rudy Eugene, who was shot to death by Miami police over the Memorial Day weekend.
For this Memorial Day weekend, the deployment still represents a large investment of police resources to a swath of South Beach — particularly at night. From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. during the weekend, officers will be stationed at many intersections along Washington and Collins. Rodriguez said the plan allows law enforcement to make sure motorists are following the changed traffic patterns.
“We’re managing the flow of traffic, and we need an officer at each of those intersections to make sure those protocols are being followed,” he said.
Drivers probably won’t have as many headaches as they’ve had in the past. Unlike last year, visitors and residents no longer have to deal with construction projects up and down Alton Road and Collins Avenue. Alton Road, in particular, is again open to two-way traffic.
Here are the city’s plans:
▪ Ocean Drive will be closed to vehicular traffic starting 7 a.m. Friday. Collins Avenue will be one-way northbound and Washington Avenue will be one-way southbound each night from Friday to Monday from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. No cars will be able to park on the street along Collins to make room for pedestrians. Hotel valet services will be affected. Along this stretch, access to east-west streets between Fifth and 17th streets will be prohibited. Alleys will be kept clear of cars. Regular traffic patterns will resume 7 a.m. Tuesday.
▪ From 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday night, police will hold a DUI checkpoint on the eastbound MacArthur Causeway. DUI patrols will be present throughout the weekend. Police will use license plate readers to check for outstanding warrants and stolen cars on the MacArthur and the Julia Tuttle causeways.
▪ The Venetian Causeway will be open only to residents. Roadblocks will be set up at several intersections along Collins, 17th Street, Fifth Street and Alton Road (at night) to keep traffic out of residential streets. Residents may be asked for their IDs when entering.
The city will also send about 250 civilian volunteers out as “Goodwill Ambassadors” to serve as liaisons between the public and the city. A city-sponsored Memorial Day ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the Miami Beach police headquarters, 1100 Washington Ave.
For more information on the the city’s Memorial Day weekend plans, visit www.respectthescene.com.