Brawls, Murder, Mass Littering: Miami Beach Clamps Down After Spring Break Chaos

After a tumultuous spring break weekend in South Beach that included the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man on Ocean Drive and massive brawls that shut down the iconic street, the City of Miami Beach is devising a plan to stop the madness. A citizen petition, meanwhile, is pushing for the enforcement of littering rules after spring breakers left heaps of garbage on the white sand.

In a new plan announced by Mayor Philip Levine on Twitter, the city is clamping down beginning this weekend. More police will be on patrol on Ocean Drive and nearby, and the road will become pedestrian-only between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Automatic license plate readers will be used to track those driving around the area, and large crowds will be cleared off the beach before sunset.

"Due to recent incidents on Ocean Drive over this past weekend, we have taken additional measures to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors," Levine writes on Facebook.

But some people who live and work in Miami Beach say it’s not enough. Sherbrooke Hotel owner Mitch Novick, a vocal critic of late-night problems on Ocean Drive, dismisses the plan as "the same nonsense that always happens with these flareups."

"This area is in a crisis situation," he says. "The noise is the root of all the problems. They could change it overnight if they wanted to, roll back the closing times from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m."

Over the weekend, Novick captured footage of a visibly intoxicated woman being kicked out of an Ocean Drive nightclub, which quickly grew into a brawl among bargoers, bouncers, and passersby.

"I’ve been here 30 years, and I’ve seen everything. From my window, I’ve seen stabbings that precipitated murder, public defecation, fights, hit-and-runs. I see sexual assaults, copulation. I’ve seen everything you can imagine — stuff that shouldn’t be seen on the public right-of-way," Novick says. "Guests who’ve been coming here for decades say, 'Hey, Mitch, we no longer feel safe on Miami Beach.'"

Guadalupe Ortiz, meanwhile, who works at a hotel on Ocean Drive, says she has noticed the crowds of spring breakers growing since last Wednesday. By the time she left work Friday around sunset, she says, throngs of partiers had been kicked off the beach and onto Ocean Drive, creating what she calls "a mob situation" by frozen-daiquiri bar Wet Willie's. When she talked to a group of police officers, they told her they didn’t have backup and needed to wait for help before intervening.

"It was a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. We sat and we saw it, and that’s why I’m a little bit appalled now at all the actions that the mayor and the chief of police now want to take," she says. "What happened to last week? We didn’t need to lose a life, a civilian life, a 20-year-old, if the chief would have staffed it properly."

The murder Ortiz mentions took place early Sunday morning, when someone shot Miami resident Antoinne Decade in the chest near Ninth Street and Ocean Drive. Family members told ABC Local 10 that Decade was in South Beach celebrating his older brother’s birthday. As of Tuesday, no arrest had been made in connection with his murder.

Ortiz says the situation this year is like nothing she's seen in the decades she’s lived and worked on the Beach.

"It was a freak show," she says. "This is unprecedented. We just weren’t ready last weekend."

Violence wasn't the only problem residents highlighted from the spring break revelry. Yesterday a petition began circulating that calls for the mayor to ban spring break from Miami Beach. The petition was later modified and now asks that the city simply enforce littering laws. Backers circulated photos of garbage-strewn beaches:

Mayor Levine's plan also calls for a solution to the littering. City Manager Jimmy Morales says after crowds are booted from the beach around 6:45 p.m., trash will be picked up before the next morning. Checkpoints will also be placed at entrances to prevent people from taking alcohol, glass, and Styrofoam onto the sand.

The mayor's plan will be used beyond next weekend, when spring break and Ultra Music Festival across the bay combine to create one of Miami's biggest party weekends of the year. He says the new measures will be used during "high-impact" weekends throughout the year. 
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Jessica Lipscomb is the former news editor of Miami New Times.