Heightened police presence in South Beach in wake of spring break chaos

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Spring breakers continued to pour into South Beach over the weekend, but revelers have encountered an increase in police presence one week after stampeding crowds wreaked havoc in the tourist destination.

The heightened security measures aimed to address growing security concerns.

“You just want to feel safe about coming down this way,” said visitor Ricky McCants.

South Beach visitor Teresa Welchen found the law enforcement presence difficult to ignore. “This is the most I’ve seen, actually, police out here,” she said.

In addition to increasing the number of officers on patrol, Miami Beach Police have set new restrictions in the wake of pandemonium that turned the city’s streets into disaster areas.

Surveillance cameras captured dozens upon dozens of spring breakers running down streets, March 17, as some of them knocked over restaurant tables and destroyed everything in their path.

The crowd overflow became so chaotic that police temporarily shut down the eastbound lanes of the MacArthur Causeway.

7News cameras captured quite a different scene this Saturday, as traffic was seen flowing smoothly into the city.

Officials said they made 74 arrests on March 17, 39 of them felonies.

Meeting with city commissioners on Wednesday, officials admitted things got out of control.

“There is absolutely no way that this city can absorb that kind of party atmosphere,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

Police said it stemmed from a fight that broke out near Seventh Street and Ocean Drive. Officials said someone threw a bottle in the air that struck an officer.

The ensuing noise sent panicked people running, creating rumors of shots fired.

Commissioners made the mayhem a main topic of discussion at Wednesday’s meeting. City leaders looking for a fix to the issues proposed measures like putting officers on 12-hour shifts, limiting scooter rentals, detouring traffic and more.

“Removing parked cars from Ocean Drive, as we did when we closed both on the east and west sides, the early closure of liquor sales,” said City Manager Jimmy Morales, “and probably not issue any special events permits, and be really strict with the promoters.”

Officials are hoping to prevent more chaos — like what unfolded last weekend — in the near future and for years to come.

“I think when people see actual police officers, they are more hesitant to engage in some of the activities that they do,” said Welchen. “It’s a peaceful environment today.”

City leaders hope to implement some of the proposed changes by the beginning of the 2019 spring break period.

Copyright 2019 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.