Miami Braces for another urban beach week

caines | 5/24/2012, 6 a.m.

Black youth expected to pack South Beach City of Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez and Assistant Chief Mark Overton were the speakers at a popular Miami Beach restaurant, Davids Caf, for this weeks Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club gathering. The topic of the day was Urban Beach Weekend and what City officials plan to do to end the legacy of carousing, fist fights, police standoffs and shootings that have marred the Memorial Day festivities for most of its 12-year history. Over 200,000 people, if not more, are expected to flood the entertainment district of South Beach from May 25 28 and safety is of paramount concern. Since 2001, more and more young adults have come to Miami Beach, anxious to participate in numerous street festivities and private club parties. And while every year has not resulted in excessive violence, last year added another black mark to the controversial event when a driver going the wrong way was shot and killed and three officers were injured on Collins Avenue. Beach residents began to mount protests calling for an end to Urban Beach Weekend. However, many businesses who make a ton of money on tourists and locals alike have said they need the weekend to go on.

Ending the chaos

Hip-hop parties and concerts attract huge numbers of urban, Black youth to the Beach along with a lot of drinking but the real problem is traffic and crowd control. This year, with the Miami Heats Dwyane Wade lending a hand as the official spokesperson and poster boy, along with teammate and Miami native Udonis Haslem, the Miami Beach Major Events Plan [MEP] has a new initiative in place. It calls for changes that include: more lighting; license plate scanners that will identify vehicles whose owners have outstanding warrants or other significant violations; changes in traffic patterns; DUI checkpoints; and the rerouting of cars back across the causeways once parking garages are filled. Hip-hop parties and concerts attract huge numbers of urban, Black youth to the Beach. The Citys focus is on managing the volume of visitors that comes to our City over such a short period of time and mitigating the impact of that volume, said Hilda Fernandez, assistant city manager. Our campaign this year is called Respect the Scene and was launched during [this years] spring break. It asks our visitors to respect the City that makes it possible for them to have a good time. The four basic points: dont litter; dont drink in public [keep alcoholic drinks inside, its the law); keep noise to a minimum; and no glass bottles on the beach. According to the plan, Ocean Drive will once again be closed to vehicles and accessible only by pedestrians. Enhanced police presence will be utilized during high impact periods with Miami Beach officers joined by other agencies. Again, their focus will be crowd control, traffic management and the enforcement of open-container laws. All our staff is on alpha/bravo and our personnel is assigned different hours on bicycles, all-terrain, marked and unmarked vehicles to optimize efficiency and productivity, Martinez said. The plan aims at balancing residents needs and safety issues. Charles Byrd, 58, now lives in Orlando. But during the tenure of former Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer [his third and final term began in September 2005], Byrd was a member of the Miami Beach Black Host Committee; he also once worked for the City of Miami and the Beacon Council as an economic developer. Urban Beach Weekend is not just an event that attracts one race its much more than a Black event, he said. You have urban youth and urban professionals who enjoy the many activities and drinking alcohol is just part of the demographics. It comes with the partying and the music. Along the way because of different episodes of violence, Urban Beach Weekend has developed a bad reputation and that is really a shame. The people are going to come though and so local politicians and the police need to maintain open communication so that crime and violence are kept at a minimum. I am hoping that we wont see a repeat of last year. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com