Standing at beach entrance points, "goodwill ambassadors" turn away coolers and floats. Police cruisers and SUVs, their lights flashing, congregate on the sand. And along the causeways, license-plate scanners monitor who's coming into the city.
Welcome to spring break 2017. After last year’s Floatopia left mountains of trash along the shore, Miami Beach officials vowed to crack down on “high-impact events,” including the eight long weeks when college kids flock to South Beach to get drunk and sunburned on the sand.
Last Friday was the beginning of it, and Miami Beach Police Department spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez says so far, so good. For the most part, at least.
“Everything has been relatively peaceful,” he says. “As with any event that would draw large crowds, there’s always a handful of folks who would make poor choices. We deal with those incidents as they pop up.”
There were 35 arrests during the first weekend of revelry, though a breakdown of who’s accused of doing what wasn’t immediately available. Last year, the second weekend of spring break brought mayhem, including 50 arrests and the murder of a 20-year-old on Ocean Drive.
Between March 3 and April 16, 2016, the city saw an estimated 136,330 people pack the beach between South Pointe and 15th Street each weekend, according to a letter to commissioners from City Manager Jimmy Morales.
This year, the city is limiting the number of people who can congregate in each section of the beach. Miami Beach is also banning tents, large speakers, and drinking on the sand.
Despite the crackdown, some say it’s still madness in South Beach. Mitch Novick, who owns the Sherbrooke Hotel and is on a crusade to limit the partying on Ocean Drive, describes the past week as “horrific.” He says he expects things to get crazier.
“A hotel guest who checked in like for a three-week stay checked in a week ago, then about two days ago commented, ‘Hey, what’s going on out there?’” Novick says. “I go, ‘It’s the beginning of spring break. It’s going to get real bad.’”
The guest, former fashion photographer Jon Perachiotti, says it’s so loud he hasn’t been able to sleep. Staying in a room facing a pizza place that doesn’t seem to close, he says he’s “at the epicenter” of the party.
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“That’s the staple diet of these guys,” says Perachiotti, who lives in Los Angeles. “It’s just over-the-top, you know, if you want to sleep. If you want to party 24 hours every day, I guess you’re in heaven.”
Novick posted a video on his Facebook page, South Beach Sludge Report, of police cars and throngs of people in the middle on Ocean Drive at night. “So much for solutions...,” he wrote.
Another video making the rounds shows a daytime brawl outside Fat Tuesday, complete with people screaming, “Worldstar!” The clip's description claims the chaos happened last weekend.
But it turned out to be #fakenews, or rather old news: Rodriguez says he believes that fight is actually from years ago.