The Westside Gazette

Miami Beach on alert after another wild weekend of near-record crowds

The police fired pepper balls to disperse crowds after an 8 p.m. curfew went into effect on Saturday.(Photo Credit: Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA)

Chaos isn’t all college spring breakers, authorities say.

      MIAMI BEACH, FL – The tourists are from all over, and their reasons for flocking to South Beach this season vary.

“We didn’t go to college, but we came for spring break,” one said.

“I’m not in school but I would love to be,” said another.

Another said she was studying to become a paramedic at Auburn.

The problem — made worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic — has been that the crowds have been tough to control for Miami Beach police.

Monday night, officers along Ocean Drive moved in on a crowd of partygoers as many took off running. One person was detained.

The area was much calmer than the night before.

On Sunday, after an 8 p.m. curfew went into effect in the city’s entertainment district, throngs of people partied in the streets, even jumping onto cars.

The damage is evident a day later by the damage to the tops of vehicles near Eighth Street and Pennsylvania Ave. A car even had its windshield bashed in.

“We actually haven’t really been able to enjoy our vacation. We stayed here at The Bentley and it’s been a lot of the younger millennials that came out for spring break just acting hectic,” said Tearney Bush, a visitor from Texas. “I’m not used to this, and I come out here every year.”

An emergency city commission meeting was held Sunday. After the city declared a state of emergency, the causeway closures and curfew were officially extended.

The commission decided unanimously that the 8 p.m. curfew should run for the next three weekends and be enforced Thursdays through Sundays until at least April 12, which is the official end of spring break.

“These are necessary efforts and necessary measures to keep our residents, our community, and most of all, our officers safe,” said Officer Ernesto Rodriguez of the Miami Beach Police Department.

After another wild weekend with near-record crowds, authorities expect it to calm down for at least a few days. But the 8 p.m. curfew could be extended into other weeknights if trouble bubbles up again.

Police have made more at least 1,050 arrests from Feb. 5 through March 21, including 398 felony offenses. At least 102 firearms have been seized from Miami Beach streets, and there have been more than 11,000 traffic citations.

The city is no longer referring to this timeframe as spring break, rather a high-volume, high-impact period.

“We’re seeing the people that are coming and partying here aren’t necessarily college students,” said Michael Gongora, Miami Beach’s vice mayor. “We’ve tracked the arrest records and we know most of them are coming from out of state and not necessarily coming for spring break. We believe the pandemic has made the situation worse.”

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