MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - South Florida has begun welcoming spring breakers who are flocking to the region, but officials have a warning for them: safety comes first.

Proposed measures by officials to keep Miami Beach safe went into effect on Friday.

“The strictest measures we’ve ever implemented in the name of public safety,” said Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner.

March is synonymous with spring break in Miami Beach.

Spring breakers arrived with their bags, ready to have some fun in the sun.

Leanne and her girls are on vacation from the United Kingdom, but safety is on their mind.

“We have each other’s locations, we won’t travel too far, stay in groups, not get too drunk, [definitely] have a good time,” she said.

But this year, officials are doing everything they can to stop the widely documented from past years.

In the last few years, spring break has been overrun by shootings, stampedes and all around bad behavior.

“We’ve tried very, very hard to mitigate some of the issues spring break,” said Miami Beach Police Chief Wayne Jones. “People getting shot and killed.”

The goal for officials this month is to break up spring break as the city enforces new rules.

Residents in the area are happy these rules will take place.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” said resident Steve Polycarp. “I can walk on the street at 1 o’clock and not have to fear if a bottle being thrown at my head or just like crazy, crazy things, unexpected things to happen, like walking on the street. Now, I feel the measures are necessary, very necessary.”

Part of the new measures include limiting beach access with security checkpoints that will go on the sand, an increase in parking fees for non-residents, changing traffic patterns to help reduce traffic impacts south of Fifth Street and adding a DUI checkpoint along the 400 block of Fifth Street.

There will also be a towing fee that will double to $516 for non-residents.

During March 7-10 and 14-17, the following rules will be in effect in South Beach:

  • Parking garages closed
  • $100 flat fee rate for parking
  • Police will use license plate readers along the Julia Tuttle And MacArthur causeways
  • No sidewalk seating for cafes along Ocean Drive

The nearest parking garage that will remain open on those dates will be at 42nd Street and Sunset Harbor, but those will still cost $100.

When asked whether she thinks this rate is reasonable, a woman replied, “No, not at all.”

However, parking does not impact residents of Miami Beach or people who drive there for work. They will be required to show proof.

The new rules are a bittersweet sacrifice for businesses in the area.

“We don’t make money, so it’s not safe, and people don’t want to come South Beach. It’s different from nine years ago,” said Angel Lam, a bar manager. “It’s better for us. It’s more safety for us. More cops, more security, it’s better for us.”

Gino, who works for security a few doors down from Lam, thinks that the measures might be too much.

“What is it, it makes it to where, to me, it’s uncomfortable. You don’t know how much fun you can have, you know?” he said. “Nobody wants to break a law or do something that makes them look bad, so they’re just chilling, in my opinion.”

Business owners at Sunset Harbour Shops echoed Gino’s concerns.

“It is not fair, it’s not right, and it’s not community driven,” said a store employee.

“On top of the $34 class fee when they’re here, so it really doubles their class costs, making it really untenable,” said a fitness studio employee.

Business owners worry what these measures will mean for their bottom line.

“We fully appreciate the initiatives that they’re putting into place, and we understand why they’re doing it,” said the fitness studio employee. “I feel like they just are a little bit short-sighted, and they didn’t fully think it through.”

“It’s really going to hurt the people that are here to support the community and to really participate in the growth and the businesses here in Sunset Harbour,” said the store employee.

These business owners said they tend to make up revenue in March for the money lost during slower summer months.

“Why not have every business have a set of stickers that you could then validate? Showing that you’re a paying customer, and then get the normal parking rate for everyone that comes here every single day and supports all of our businesses and supports the local economy,” said the fitness studio employee.

But Meiner said city officials have taken these steps because they deem them necessary.

“This is shared sacrifice that we do in the name of public safety,” he said. “If we don’t do this, we’ll continue hurting our brand, we’ll continue hurting our ability to be a safe and welcoming tourist destination, and so, if this is the sacrifice we have to make for one year to free us from the mystery, the loss of life, the impact on our economy that spring break causes, well, then, it’s a good investment for the long term of our community.”

Also taking place this weekend in South Florida is Carnaval on the Mile in Coral Gables. Miracle Mile will be closed down for local art, live music and plenty of fine food for the 25th anniversary of the event.

Spectators could also expect to see camera crews and closures on Southwest Second Avenue and Second Street as filming for “Bad Boys 4” continues with stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

“Will Smith has loved Miami for the last 25 years, so to be able to be out here and see him shooting movies, I feel like Miami is becoming the new Hollywood,” said William Ripley.

Regardless of how people feel about the new measures, everyone wants the same thing: a safe spring break.

“No funny business, none whatsoever,” Polycarp said. “Like Allstate, the tourists are in good hands.”

Tourists and residents are also being reminded to use the Miami Beach trolley service, which will be operating on an enhanced schedule.

For more information on the city’s safety measures, click here.

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