Cops arrest 321 during Urban Beach Weekend

caines | 5/31/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Crowds smaller but no fatalities reported during five-day festival

An estimated 250,000 people visited South Beach during the Memorial Day weekend many of them in order to participate in the always popular but still controversial Urban Beach Week. The festival, known for its hip-hop music, VIP parties and trend-wearing fashionistas, has been a local fixture since 2001. At the same time, the festival has had its share of violence both due to gun-toting patrons and law enforcement officials. But this year, according to Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez, things went much smoother and he was pleased with how things went. Readers may recall that in the early hours of Memorial Day last year, police were involved in a shooting that resulted in one mans death and injuries to four bystanders. At least two lawsuits are expected to be filed for public records in order to determine whether bullets that struck the bystanders were from the police or others. Meanwhile, according to spokesperson Ed Griffith, the state attorneys office continues to investigate the case, which involves seven police officers from Miami Beach and four from Hialeah. This year, however, there were no deaths reported.

Fewer hit the Beach but arrests remain similar

Official attendance numbers may take a few more days, but estimates are that the numbers were lower than in previous years. Martinez attributes the reduction in reported incidents to added police presence and a change in strategies. Based on numbers released on Monday, police arrested 321 people during the weekend, compared to 332 during the same time frame last year. There were also 600 less emergency calls made this year. Some of the new policies used to curtail crime and violence included: DUI checkpoints, license plate scanners, street closures and police being deployed in pairs and stationed on street corners. The smaller crowds may also have been due to some of the mostly-Black visitors going to Bayfront Park in downtown Miami instead. Sunday was the scheduled day for the annual Best of the Best concert an all-day affair that features some of the top reggae artists in the world. The concert, which lasted late into the night, featured artists like: Shaggy, Fat Joe, Marcia Griffiths and Funk Master Flex. Jamaica, the self-appointed home of reggae, was prominently featured through its music at this years Best of the Best celebration. Jamaica is also marking its 50th anniversary of independence [August 6, 1962] later this summer.

Crazed cannibal shot, killed during Weekend

In a more tragic and bizarre incident, the MacArthur Causeway was temporarily shut down last Saturday not because of hip-hop aficionados, but due to reports of a naked man attempting to eat another mans face. The attacker, identified as Rudy Eugene, 31, ripped the skin off of his victims face, bit his nose and gouged out his eyes. Eugene ignored the police and kept chewing on the man, even after being shot. He was shot several more times and eventually killed. The victim, still in extremely critical condition, has been identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo. Officials have so far been unable to determine what caused Eugene to go on his rampage. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com