Activist state

Miami Beach will declare a ‘state of emergency’ for Spring Break

Three weeks after spring break, Miami Beach announced it would declare a “state of emergency” and impose new crowd control restrictions after two shootings on Ocean Drive shattered the relative calm in South Beach during the month-long holiday period.

Details were not released Monday, but city leaders and police officials will address the public at a press conference in the afternoon.

The announcement comes as Miami Beach’s new approach to dealing with massive and sometimes rowdy crowds seemed to be having the desired effect: the fights on street corners and confrontations with prepared cops that lit up social media and embarrassed city ​​leaders in recent years. years, have mostly been absent.

Last year, the city imposed an 8 p.m. curfew and closed its major roadways in the city.

So this spring break, there have been a few shootings, but no fatalities and no life-threatening injuries. And arrests are down from last year, when more than 100 firearms were confiscated, most this year for petty crimes and misdemeanors.

Some city leaders, business owners and some of the tens of thousands of visitors who have flocked to South Beach this month say — with fingers crossed — that the tension and issues that have plagued the aftermath spring break has so far been kept at bay. But the weekend’s two shootings shook the community and led to conversations about what else could be done to limit violence during spring break.

“If you take out those two shootings, which of course are major, then it’s improved significantly from 2021,” resident activist Matthew Gultanoff said.

A Miami Beach Police vehicle drives through crowds near Ocean Drive during spring break in Miami Beach, Fla., Saturday, March 19, 2022. Daniel A. Varela [email protected]

Longtime Ocean Drive owner David Wallack of Mango’s Tropical Cafe agreed spring break had gotten better but said there was a ‘restless crowd’ in town this weekend . He said the police presence in South Beach over the weekend was excellent, but he said the shooting was a symptom of gun culture in America.

“It’s not the companies’ fault, it’s not the police’s fault, it’s nobody’s fault, it’s a cultural phenomenon of the times we live in,” he said. -he declares.

Police have taken to social media to illustrate the dangers they face.

The Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police posted a 10-second video on Twitter on Sunday that it said showed a dangerous situation, with hundreds of jubilant, dancing spring breakers with lighted phones surrounding and boxing police on a pair of golf carts.

Miami Beach police officers patrol on all-terrain vehicles on Ocean Drive during spring break in Miami Beach, Fla., Saturday, March 19, 2022. Daniel A. Varela [email protected]

“The video is an excerpt of the crowds and the dangers we face. The officers are EXHAUSTED. The party must end. City officials must take immediate and firm action to keep officers and residents safe,” the Tweet read.

Over the weekend, four Miami Beach police officers were injured in two accidents involving golf carts. In one instance, a Mustang hit a golf cart on Ocean Drive, which was closed to traffic, and three officers were injured. Another was injured on a cart on the beach at Lummus Park. None of them were seriously injured.

“It’s spring break. We have the whole country coming to us. We are the mecca of tourism. We understand that,” said Paul Ozaeta, president of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police. “The point is that ultimately we need [to hire] more cops. Given the cop environment, I’m afraid the officers won’t want to stay here. We are not butlers with badges, we are civil servants.

Ozaeta was referring to a statement last month in which senior police officials announced a more passive approach with visitors, saying police would offer a ‘concierge’ type service than the ‘zero tolerance’ strategy that some leaders and city residents demanded in the past.

People watch live musical performances during Miami Beach Live International Music Weekend in Miami Beach, Florida on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Daniel A. Varela [email protected]

In February, with spring break fast approaching, the city that once warned spring break to “Come on vacation, don’t go on probation,” unveiled a less adversarial marketing campaign.

Under pressure from black Miami-Dade leaders who claimed crowds had taken to the streets in recent years because there wasn’t much to do after dark, the city spent $3 million dollars for a series of concerts and other events. He also changed his marketing campaign to “Care for Our City”.

This year’s relative success was shattered just after midnight on Saturday when shots rang out and police found two people dead near Ocean Drive and Eighth Street. A third victim showed up alone at the hospital. Police said the injuries were not life threatening. Then, just after midnight on Sunday, two more people were injured – also not seriously – when gunfire broke out a block from Seventh Street and Ocean.

Police chased and caught a man who they believe threw a 9mm handgun into some shrubbery. The man told police he shot in self-defense. CCTV appeared to support his complaint and Derrick Antonio Mitchell, 19, was only charged with three weapons violations, carrying a concealed firearm, tampering with physical evidence and possession of a modified firearm.

Ozaeta said the biggest problem facing cops on the streets this year is logistics — there just aren’t enough cops, he said, and the city needs to hire more. He realizes that more police probably wouldn’t have stopped the shooting. But he also acknowledges that understaffing sometimes puts officers in more dangerous situations and that there are instances where police will delay arrests if they feel uncomfortable and outnumbered.

“It creates more dangerous situations,” he said. “We just can’t afford to lose two more guys – even if it just means the paperwork that would keep them off the streets for a few hours. And we can’t handle crowds properly. It’s basically a matter of logistics.

This story was originally published March 21, 2022 2:15 p.m.

Chuck Rabin, writing for the Miami Herald for the past three decades, covers cops and crime. Prior to that, he covered the halls of Miami-Dade Government and the City of Miami. He covered hurricanes, the 2000 presidential election and the mass shooting of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. On a random note: Long before those assignments, Chuck was pepper sprayed covering up the unrest in Miami the morning Elián Gonzalez was taken away by federal authorities.