Spring break in Miami Beach: Breaking up is hard to do

Spring break in Miami Beach: Breaking up is hard to do - Domestic News - News

The Complex and Contentious Relationship Between Miami Beach and Spring Break: Balancing Revenue and Public Safety

Miami Beach’s connection to spring break remains a complicated affair, despite the city’s efforts to move on. The allure of this popular destination for college students has brought in billions of dollars over the years but has also been marred by unruly crowds and instances of violence.

The most recent manifestation of this turbulent relationship came in the form of two fatal shootings in 2023, which led to a state of emergency and a midnight curfew. In response, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dispatched 140 state troopers throughout the Sunshine State, with 45 of them stationed in Miami Beach.

The city has also initiated a “breaking up” campaign aimed at deterring unwanted spring break behavior through hefty fines, curfews, bag checks, restricted beach access, DUI checkpoints, $100 parking fees, and nonresident towing rates exceeding $500.

David Wallack, the owner of Mango’s Tropical Cafe in South Beach, reached his breaking point following a series of stampedes last March. Outside Mango’s, which is known for its vibrant nightlife and oceanfront setting, hundreds of people were sent running during these chaotic incidents. The mayhem could be triggered by a range of factors, including fights, screams, firecrackers, and gunshots.

Despite contemplating closing his establishment due to the ongoing unrest, Wallack ultimately chose to remain hopeful and carry on. During a visit by Governor DeSantis and Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner on March 21, the latter announced that state troopers would be deployed to enhance security in the area.

DeSantis emphasized that while Florida welcomes visitors, it does not welcome criminal activity and mayhem. The troopers will be assisting local law enforcement agencies with tasks like crowd control, DUI checkpoints, license plate readers, and traffic direction. Miami Beach Mayor Meiner expressed his frustration, stating that the city has had enough of the disorderly spring break scene.

The Miami City Commission approved various measures to boost safety during the event, including increased security checkpoints at beach entrances and more DUI inspections. Police officers will work longer hours, with some working up to 16 hours daily during spring break. The goal is not to spoil the fun for students but rather to ensure their safety.

History repeats itself, as in 2022, Miami Beach imposed a midnight curfew after two spring break shootings left five people injured on Ocean Drive.

The city’s small size and limited capacity are significant factors in managing the influx of visitors during spring break. Miami Beach Police Chief Wayne Jones, who has been with the department since 1996, stated that nearly half of those arrested during the event are local residents. To control crowds, Jones explained, it’s necessary to limit the number of people arriving during spring break.

Critics have raised concerns about the potential for racial profiling in the spring break crackdown. Chief Jones, who is Miami Beach’s first Black police chief, acknowledged the sensitivity of the issue and assured that their focus is on policing behavior rather than race or ethnicity.

Miami Beach sits on a small barrier island between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, with most of the spring break activity occurring along its 10 blocks of art deco hotels, trendy restaurants, and nightspots on Ocean Drive.

Spring breakers Katie Ryan from Connecticut and Avery Caimes arrived in Miami Beach with friends this year, noting the comparatively calm atmosphere compared to their past experiences in Fort Lauderdale. Mark Evenson, a spring breaker from Minnesota, had mixed feelings about the efforts to curtail partying, acknowledging both his enjoyment of the scene and understanding of the need for safety measures.

Outside Mango’s, Wallack shared that sidewalk seating on Ocean Drive will be closed during weekends under spring break restrictions, resulting in a significant loss of revenue for businesses with cafes. He expressed concern that if the current situation continues, it could lead to major financial difficulties for local establishments.