SUN AND FUN: Miami Beach attracts over 300,000 visitors for Urban Beach Week.
By K. BARRETT BILALI
MIAMI BEACH – The Miami Beach Police Department announced it would begin enforcing “quality of life” violations this weekend.
Teams of officers will take to the streets to enforce an ordinance “which cites unreasonably loud, excessive, unnecessary, or unusual noise,” the department said in a press release. “Violations of this ordinance may result in an arrest.”
Police also announced it will ramp up its enforcement of traffic-related infractions. “The goal is to increase public safety by continuing to enforce laws,” said Miami Beach Police Deputy Chief Rick Clements.
The move to enforce laws of noncriminal activity comes a week after a community forum to address years of conflict between local residents and visitors during Memorial Day weekend. Over 300,000 visitors converge upon Miami Beach in an event that is often referred to as Urban Beach Week.
Quality of life policing usually includes the enforcement of seemingly minor offenses such as public urination, openly carrying of alcohol, panhandling, and littering. By focusing on these non-criminal acts, police say they can decrease the chances of more serious crimes from occurring.
“Police officers need to be thinking of how to police and not so caught up in the law enforcement mindset,” said Ruban Roberts, president of the Miami-Dade NAACP.
“I am very concerned that the police are targeting a demographic group – in this case African Americans – and I don’t think it’s the best way to handle this type of situation,” said Roberts.
Roberts moderated the community forum held last week at the Betsy Hotel to address the recurring controversy over Urban Beach Week. City officials, police, community leaders and local residents discussed the problems of noise, litter and crime that have been associated with the celebration in the past. He said he had heard there was a plan to address noise complaints, but not any other quality of life issues.
“This really would hinder their progress, both professionally, personally, as well as their lifestyle, if they get an arrest record,” Roberts when informed the new police approach to public safety could lead to the arrest of otherwise innocent individuals.
“The decision to enforce this ordinance is in response to many ongoing concerns by our residents about excessive noise,” said Marcia Monserrat, Chief of Staff for the City Manager’s office of Miami Beach.
Monserrat said the City of Miami Beach does not currently have a noise ordinance passed and voted on by their City Council. Instead the city has opted to enforce the Miami-Dade County Ordinance Sec. 21-28 that regulates and defines excessive noise throughout the county.
“The enforcement of the ordinance is for all visitors and residents and was not based on the Urban Beach Week,” said Monserrat. The city sees an estimated 100,000 visitors daily and upward of 300,000 on “high impact weekends” like during Memorial Day weekend, she said.
Monserrat said the city would soon present a public safety program that will include a traffic plan and other initiatives to maintain public safety.
In past years, both the NAACP and the local ACLU chapter meet with the Miami-Dade Police Department to share concerns prior to Memorial Day weekend.
The NAACP and ACLU have joined together to protect the people attending Urban Beach Week celebrations by providing “police observers” to make sure there are no clear violations of people’s civil rights. These observers, said Roberts, go through a training program conducted by the ACLU to become “ambassadors.”
Roberts acknowledges that with such a massive number of people, there are bound to be incidents where the police have to get involved. But his bottom line is simple. “We simply want to make sure that African Americans who are coming to town to spend their money feel welcome,” said Roberts. “They should not feel that they are in a police state.”