Miami Beach police are cracking down on drivers blasting loud music from car stereos as they cruise around the city, part of a broader effort to address noise complaints and other disturbances in areas frequented by tourists.
Beginning this weekend, a special police detail will pull over cars for blaring music — and drivers who refuse to turn down the volume could wind up in handcuffs.
"We're going to afford violators in fairness one warning. After that they will be arrested and taken to jail," Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates told the City Commission on Wednesday evening.
Although a Miami-Dade County ordinance prohibiting cars from playing "unreasonably loud" music was already on the books, violators were not often arrested, said Miami Beach Police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez. A state law that enabled police to give drivers a ticket for loud music was struck down in 2012, leaving the county ordinance as the only legal tool for controlling the city's nighttime soundtrack.
For now, Miami Beach is starting with a small group of police officers tasked with patrolling for car noise violations, but the city plans to expand its efforts.
"We're basically equipping our officers with tools to be able to address these quality of life issues which seem to be the biggest concern for our residents," Rodriguez said. "The goal is to have all of our officers citywide working and enforcing these types of violations and infractions."
The county ordinance doesn't include specific criteria, like decibel levels, to determine whether a car stereo is too loud, but stipulates that noise that can be heard 100 feet from a vehicle is not allowed between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
All Miami Beach police officers should have a body camera by the end of May, Oates said, which will allow officers to record the warnings they give to drivers and document the volume of the music.
The increased enforcement comes after a rowdy spring break that brought thousands of young visitors to South Beach, packing the entertainment district with so many people one Saturday night that police had to temporarily close the MacArthur Causeway to incoming traffic. Residents complained of drunk tourists urinating in public and rampant marijuana use.
The crackdown on cars playing loud music is one of a number of changes proposed by city officials. The City Commission is also considering a ban on scooter rentals during the month of March and on Memorial Day weekend.
Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán, who sponsored the legislation, described the use of scooters during popular tourist weekends as a "public safety issue" and shared videos with the commission showing scooters crashing, weaving in and out of traffic, riding in bike lanes and filling entire streets.
"None of these are safe behaviors and during certain high-impact periods it really becomes excessive and a problem," she said.
Some commissioners expressed concerns about the proposed scooter rental ban, which they said would harm business owners. "I think that it will penalize local businesses," said Commissioner Ricky Arriola. "This is a good-sounding ordinance but I don't think it's going to solve the problem."
The scooter rental ban is up for a final vote at the commission's May 16 meeting.