Memorial Day weekend is just three days away. That means Urban Beach Week -- and its hundreds of thousands of revelers -- is once again slated to descend on Miami Beach. Three years ago the event was marred when police fired more than 100 shots in an incident that killed 22-year-old Raymond Herisse and injured bystanders. Since then authorities have significantly beefed up their presence, changed crowd-control procedures, and altered traffic patterns. This year Miami Beach Police say they're once again ready for the crowds.
"This is our Super Bowl," Miami Beach Police spokesman Sgt. Bobby Hernandez told Riptide. "We prepare all year for this."
Hernandez said this year's security plan will largely follow last year's event, which was mostly without incident. Beginning 8 p.m. Friday evening a DUI checkpoint will be in effect for drivers heading into Miami Beach, and eastbound MacArthur Causeway traffic will be narrowed to one lane.
As was the case last year, automated license plate readers will be used on the MacArthur, Venetian, and Julia Tuttle causeways to search for wanted persons or stolen vehicles attempting to enter Miami Beach.
The notorious "traffic loop" system will also be in effect beginning Friday. Between Fifth and 16th streets, Collins Avenue will be open northbound only and Washington Avenue southbound only, and all entrances to side roads such as Euclid and Meridian avenues will be open to residents only, ensuring that Urban Beach Week cruisers and visitors remain confined to a limited traffic pattern.
"If you're coming to the beach to have a good time, we encourage you to come find a parking space," Hernandez said. "If not, you're going to stay on this carousel the entire time all the way until you leave Miami Beach again."
Police presence for the weekend will also greatly increase. In addition to a massive nerve center set up to monitor real-time feed from a litany of cameras set up throughout South Beach, as many as 450 officers from numerous county departments will be assigned to the area during the busy 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift. Only 20 are typically working in Miami Beach during the same shift.
The increased presence, Hernandez said, ensures that an officer is always within shouting distance and is aimed at preempting the "snowball effect" of minor incidents quickly escalating into more serious problems in the absence of authorities.
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"Residents, business owners, and tourists," Hernandez said, "those are the three areas we're concerned with."
As for Herisse's case, it's still open three years later. Hernandez told the Miami Herald in January that the department had finally passed its investigators' findings on to the state attorney's office but that they "are complicated."