Miami Beach wants to ‘break up’ with spring break. How the city will try to do it

Miami Beach wants to ‘break up’ with spring break. How the city will try to do it

In recent years, Miami Beach officials have tried a slew of tactics to deal with spring breakers who come to South Beach to party and pack Ocean Drive during the month of March. None of them have stopped people from visiting, and last year’s festivities were marred by two deadly shootings and hundreds of arrests.

This year, the city is trying to get ahead of the chaos. To do so, officials are spelling out how a series of measures will mean harsh consequences for misbehavior — and discomfort even for those who simply want to have a good time.

A new messaging campaign from the city declares that “Miami Beach is breaking up with spring break” and features an imagined text-message conversation in which the city says: “Hey Spring Break, we’re over.”

On Thursday afternoon at the Miami Beach police headquarters, city leaders held a press conference to discuss their strategy for South Beach, which includes a flat $100 parking rate in city garages and parking lots and the closure of sidewalk cafes on Ocean Drive during the weekends of March 7-10 and March 14-17.

“Come here, enjoy, but don’t come here looking for trouble,” Mayor Steven Meiner said. “We’ve had enough.”

A successful spring break, Meiner added, would mean “having a March without violence.” Asked how the city could prevent gun violence without measures like the use of metal detectors — something Meiner has pushed for — the mayor said he was still confident in the city’s approach.

Officials have walked a fine line in their messaging, insisting that Miami Beach is still welcoming to visitors while also announcing steps that are likely to make their experiences in the city unpleasant.

Police Chief Wayne Jones said people can expect license plate readers, DUI checkpoints and more police in South Beach “than you’ve ever seen before.”

“It will be difficult to get here to our city, and once you get here, the expectation will be that you play by the rules,” Jones said.

Officials are also telling visitors to “expect curfews,” although none have been formally announced. City Manager Alina Hudak would need to declare a state of emergency next month before a curfew could go into effect.

Late last month, the City Commission voted to preemptively endorse several measures throughout March, including:

A flat $30 parking rate at city garages and lots in South Beach ($100 from March 7-10 and March 14-17) except for residents and employees

Restricted entry to those garages and lots after 6 p.m.

A double towing rate of $516 for nonresidents

Security checkpoints and bag checks to enter the beach

Beach entry via Ocean Drive limited to Fifth, 10th and 12th streets

Closure of those beach entrances at 6 p.m.

Additional measures will take effect during the March 7-10 and March 14-17 weekends, including:

License plate readers on the eastbound lanes of the Julia Tuttle and MacArthur causeways from March 8-10 and March 15-17 starting at 6 p.m., expected to cause significant traffic delays

A DUI sobriety checkpoint on Fifth Street on March 8-9 and March 15-16

A ban on rentals of Slingshots, golf carts, electric scooters and other motorized vehicles from March 7-10 and March 14-17

The city is also planning “heightened police enforcement for consumption of alcohol in public, drug possession and violent behavior.” Last month, the City Commission moved to repeal an option for civil citations for low-level marijuana possession as part of their plan for spring break.

“If you are looking to cause problems, do not come to Miami Beach,” Jones said in a statement. “Our message is simple: we want people to enjoy their time here, but will not tolerate the behavior we have witnessed in the past few years.”