Miami Beach Well on Its Way to Solving Memorial Day Problem
After years of Memorial Day Madness, What the City is Doing is Working
Do you hear that? That’s the collective sound of Miamians not complaining about Memorial Day Weekend. Something we haven’t heard in a long time.
For over a decade those three words have unleashed a torrent of dread among South Floridians, turning associations of barbecues and beach days to remembrances of unmanageable crowds and violent crime. Much like Summer itself, the weekend that serves as its unofficial kickoff had a very negative connotation in Miami. And things needed to change.
“Do something about it!” locals cried. And lots of ideas were kicked around.
One group offered to stage a large-scale music festival to push out Urban Beach Week.
Others tried to organize a giant Memorial Day parade to honor fallen vets, more than the small Monday morning ceremony at Police Headquarters.
Still more called for a dramatically increased police presence, encouraging zero-tolerance policies for even minor rule-breakers. Some argued this would crowd jails and create even more violence. But in the end, it was the route the city chose.
SUFFER THROUGH THIS AND IT’LL GET BETTER
Roadblocks and checkpoints guarding the entrances to the island backed traffic up along the entire MacArthur causeway, back to almost I-95. Blockades to residential areas may have kept several residents holed up in their apartments, but contained the revelry to a few crowded streets. Even the alternate route along the Venetian was closed to all but those who could show proof of residence.
Ocean Drive was shut down, one of only a few times a year that happens.
Major headache for Miamians?
Probably. But it worked.
EMPTY BEACH = HAPPY BEACH
Facebook and Twitter were saturated with posts like “strangely quiet for Memorial Day.” And “no crowds out here in South Beach #MDW.”
Arrests were about constant with 344 reported over the weekend, not much different than 324 in 2012. There were 33 felonies and 3 aggravated assaults, compared to 22 and zero, respectively, last year. But there were no shootings, no face-eatings either.
911 calls were down to 1097 from 1222, and misdemeanors were down to 143 from 155 in 2012.
Most importantly, the general annoyance of the local population was kept to a minimum. Businesses were near empty over the long weekend, as the usually-packed strip along Lincoln Road was as deserted as it was during the 1980s. The sand wasn’t much more crowded, with beach space on levels usually only seen on weekdays. And nobody was really complaining.
A GOOD START, BUT IT’S FAR FROM OVER
The City knew it: Make coming here as logistically painful and unpleasant as possible, and the idea of “fun” goes away. For once, it seems the City of Miami Beach has done something right, and are on their way to solving a problem few knew how to solve. Perhaps someday soon, Memorial Day will once again be a time we encourage people to come to Miami.
Does this mean Urban Beach Weekend is over? Not quite yet. Much like the elimination of Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale it will take a few years for word to get out that MIA is not longer the “place to be” on Memorial Day. But enough weekends like this one and slowly, ever so slowly, Memorial Day might actually go back to having a positive connotation. And Miamians can discuss things other than where they’re going to escape for the long weekend.
You Deserve More Than an Ordinary Vacation.
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