‘Breaking up with spring break’: What students need to know

Man looks at the menu posted in front of Eleventh Street Diner in Miami Beach, FL, in 2022. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

With an influx of over 40,000 tourists for spring break in South Beach last year, the Miami Beach Police Department has struggled to maintain security in the neighborhood during one of its busiest times of the year.

Having dealt with hundreds of arrests, DUIs, gun confiscations and rowdy crowds in the past, the City of Miami Beach is cracking down on crime this spring break to ensure safety for tourists and locals alike.

In the city’s recently published public service announcement, precautions including bag checks, DUI checkpoints, curfews and even $100 parking fees are set to be enforced throughout March, with some focus on “high-impact periods,” referencing every weekend during the month between Thursday-Sunday.

Molly McKenna, a senior at UM, aims to avoid the South Beach experience altogether.

“I almost make it a point to stay out of South Beach due to all of the tourists and college students who are taking advantage of the area while in town,” McKenna said.

“It’s a highly popular getaway, and with that comes an immense amount of reckless behaviors and an unsafe environment. It’s not all bad, but the option to not deal with South Beach is one I’d prefer, with just as good alternative options while staying in Miami.”

Miami is certainly a vast city to explore, yet South Beach seems to be the area that all college students flock to for their week-long excursions.

According to NBC News, spring break crowds are already starting to gather on South Beach in large numbers. In anticipation of the chaos that has struck Miami Beach in past years, the following is how MBPD and the City of Miami Beach are planning to tackle any potential threats to safety.

Gun Violence & Permitless Carry

Last spring break, two people were killed in relation to gun violence on the streets of Miami Beach. Over the past few years, MBPD has also confiscated hundreds of guns brought in by out-of-towners, and the department is now looking to limit as much violence as possible.

As of July 1, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s permitless concealed carry law also passed in the state, allowing the majority of residents and visitors to carry weapons without a government-issued license. This has posed a new threat to the City of Miami Beach, leading the local government to create measures restricting the presence of guns as much as possible in the community.

A heightened police presence is expected at Miami Beach throughout the month, including reinforcement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol, Miami-Dade Police Department, Miami-Dade Schools Police Department, MBPD’s Marine Patrol and other municipal law enforcement agencies.

“City staffing will also be increased with the presence of the Miami Beach Fire Rescue, Ocean Rescue, Code Compliance, Park Rangers and Parking & Sanitation,” MBPD said in a statement.

Checkpoints and bag checks at beach access points will also be implemented throughout the city, specifically during “high-impact” weekends.

“The MBPD will implement an enhanced alpha/bravo staffing configuration during these high-impact weekends,” said public information officer of MBPD, Christopher Bess. “This means that every MBPD officer will work 13-hour shifts, and there will be an additional 18 law enforcement partners deployed.”

Alcohol & Drug Control

South Beach is also known to become extremely popular at night during these busy weekends in March, creating an attraction for alcohol and drug use.

This year’s new measures include strict regulations on alcohol or drug possession, with liquor stores in the Entertainment District now being required to close as early as 8 p.m.

The consumption of alcohol, narcotics and marijuana is already prohibited on the beach. The City of Miami Beach also has a new law, effective Jan. 1, 2023, that makes the smoking of cigarettes and other tobacco products illegal, resulting in fines between $100-500 or up to 60 days in jail.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) sobriety checkpoints will also be placed in the beach town, specifically along 5th Street on March 8-9 and March 15-16.

South Beach is no stranger to UM students with its endless nightlife and restaurants, becoming a breeding ground for substance abuse. The beach seems less appealing to students when crowded with tourists for spring break, like for freshman Aarya Shaikh. Yet she plans to simply minimize her time there while still getting to experience all Miami Beach has to offer.

“I’m going home for the first five days of break and then heading to South Beach with a couple of friends to spend the next five days down here,” Shaikh said.

“I think it will be packed with students and prices will be much higher, but overall manageable.”

Parking & Transportation

As the city gears up for the influx of visitors during the upcoming spring break season, Miami Beach authorities are implementing a series of stringent measures to manage parking and transportation effectively.

During high-impact periods, a flat parking rate of $30 will be enforced at city parking garages and surface lots, with that price rising to $100 at 42nd Street garage (G6). The flat parking rate does not apply to Miami Beach residents, access card holders, permit holders or employees with proper identification.

To ensure compliance with parking regulations, authorities will also increase towing of illegally parked vehicles, with the towing fine doubled to $516 for non-residents. Spring breakers are urged to adhere to designated parking areas to avoid penalties, as several parking garages and surface lots in South Beach will also be closed during specific periods.

To address congestion effectively, enhanced traffic monitoring and management strategies will be in place. This includes real-time updates, modified traffic signal timing and increased staffing during peak hours.

In light of parking limitations, visitors are encouraged to explore alternative transportation options such as public transit, ridesharing services, or utilizing the city’s free trolley service, which will operate on an enhanced schedule during high-impact periods.

As the city strives to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for residents and visitors alike, cooperation with parking and transportation regulations is being prioritized by MBPD. By planning ahead and adhering to these measures, spring breakers can contribute to a smoother and more enjoyable visit to Miami Beach, if they choose to do so.

The MBPD will certainly be aware of the number of students, especially from last year’s violence and violations, but there is a hope that with these enforced rules and regulations, South Beach will remain a safer environment for all those stopping by the tropical neighborhood.