Preparations underway in Miami Beach ahead of Memorial Day weekend

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Preparations are underway in Miami Beach for Memorial Day weekend festivities, and city officials and police said their top priority is ensuring everyone stays safe.

It’s traditionally one of the busiest weekends in Miami Beach, and the city’s mayor said they are gearing up for the big crowds.

“We just want to make sure that it’s a safe time for our residents and for our visitors,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

Shootings and big brawls have taken center stage over the holiday weekend in previous years, so city leaders said they’re going on offense to keep the violence at bay.

“We’ve hired 50 new officers. We’re bringing in for Memorial Day cops from other jurisdictions. We’ll have license plate readers up,” said Gelber.

More than 400 Miami Beach Police officers will be working 13-hour shifts from Friday morning to Monday.

One hundred police officers from other departments will provide assistance, and officials said they will be cracking down on alcohol and marijuana use.

“We’re going to have officers, basically, at every intersection within the entertainment district of Miami Beach,” said Miami Beach Police Officer Ernesto Rodriguez.

Tourists visiting the area are glad to see heightened security measures put in place.

“I was very happy to see the police and to see there’s so many of them stationed at each block pretty much,” said Jill Thompson, who’s visiting from North Carolina. “That way, I feel like at least if anything were to happen, they’re right there.”

“It’s Memorial Day Weekend, so everybody is here from out of town, including me, so we want to be safe cause there’s gonna be a lot of people down here,” Kimberly Bell from Georgia added.

“It feels very safe,” said John Hope, who’s in town from the United Kingdom. “It’s quite a lot of police. I think nowadays you have to have the safety.”

Officials advised drivers to expect delays. Ocean Drive will be completely shut down to vehicles.

Traffic will be going in a loop, north on Collins Avenue from Fifth to 16th streets and south on Washington Avenue.

South Beach residents will be required to show ID to get into their neighborhoods.

With the Hyundai Air and Sea Show set for Memorial Day Weekend and expanding this year, Gelber said he hopes it will make for a more family-friendly atmosphere.

The city is also cracking down on club promoters, but some residents, like community activist John Deutzman and longtime hotel owner Mitch Novick, said that’s still not enough.

“It’s a disaster every weekend!” said Deutzman.

“Miami Beach has turned into a crime-ridden, honky tonk, circus-like atmosphere,” said Novick.

Some local business owners said the city needs to implement tougher noise restrictions on Ocean Drive to avoid repeats of spring break and the Rolling Loud hip-hop festival.

The big question remains: Is Miami Beach ready for Memorial Day weekend?

Deutzman said only time will tell.

“For me to say Memorial Day is going to be great, I could pick your winning lottery numbers, too,” he said.

The Ocean Drive closure went into effect Friday at 7 a.m. and will run through Tuesday morning.

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