For the past eleven years, Memorial Day weekend has been a nightmare for our residents and an extremely difficult weekend for the City to manage, particularly for our police department. We know that the expectations of the community were that we would not tolerate a repeat of last year’s disastrous events, and that our officers would control the crowds and enforce our quality of life ordinances.
I spent part of Saturday night walking the streets of South Beach with Chief Ray Martinez and Assistant Chief Mark Overton, as well as several hours on Sunday afternoon with Captain David De La Espriella. During the hours that I spent on South Beach, I am pleased to report that the crowds were very well-behaved and I found that the level of planning for this weekend by the City, in conjunction with the police department and all other major departments, was time very well spent.
There were many improvements that were made this year, all of which in my opinion made a significant difference to the feeling of the safety that almost everyone enjoyed this year. I want to start by recognizing Captain Henry Doce, who was the architect of the traffic loop. Although this was somewhat inconvenient for South Beach residents, I have heard a resounding “thank you” from residents who finally had their neighborhood streets back. The barricades that kept visitors’ cars from entering the neighborhood streets and taking precious parking spots were a big hit. Additionally, by keeping visitors from parking in the interior residential streets, we avoided the accompanying noise pollution of tourists returning to their vehicles in the wee hours of the morning.
Some of the other significant improvements this year included the rental of light towers along Ocean Drive. These lights, along with two brand new Miami Beach police towers with mounted night vision cameras, increased Ocean Drive security tremendously. I also must say that it was a big plus to have the license plate readers placed on police vehicles on the Julia Tuttle Causeway. These machines were able to scan a vehicle’s license plate and within four seconds generate a report if the vehicle had any outstanding warrants, if the license was suspended, or if the vehicle was stolen. Our officers were able to stop approximately 40 vehicles before they ever entered the city as a result of this equipment, thus preventing potential troublemakers from ever getting to South Beach.
Similarly, the DUI checkpoint that was used on Friday night on the Macarthur Causeway yielded numerous arrests and individuals who were intoxicated, or who had guns, or drugs from entering the city. All in all, I take my hat off to our administration for the meticulous planning that went into making this the safest Memorial Day weekend experience for everyone, but I want to pay particular thanks to the Miami Beach Police Department led by Chief Ray Martinez for an outstanding job.