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Miami Beach struggles with spring break violence, including two fatal shootings

The city imposed an overnight curfew that ended Monday morning and is considering another one next weekend

Miami spring break
Crowds walk up and down Ocean Drive during spring break on on March 18, 2023, in Miami Beach, Florida.D.A. Varela (AP)

For the third year in a row, Miami Beach finds itself struggling with spring break violence, including two fatal shootings and unruly crowds, despite a massive police presence and activities designed to give people alternatives to drinking alcohol and roaming the streets.

The party-all-the-time vibe in the South Beach section of the barrier island city has already led officials to ban alcohol sales at larger clubs after 2 am. Police are stationed everywhere, including in mobile towers that give officers a birds-eye view of the streets. Art, music, yoga and volleyball tournaments were added this year to give people something to do, at least during the day.

Yet the violence continues at night. All night. The city imposed an overnight curfew that ended Monday morning and is considering imposing another one next weekend. It’s the third straight year city officials have approved such restrictions — something Mayor Dan Gelber wants to stop.

“The volume of people in our city, the unruly nature of too many and the presence of guns has created a peril that cannot go unchecked,” Gelber said in a video statement issued Sunday. “It is clear that even an unprecedented police presence could not prevent these incidents from occurring.”

Gelber added: “We don’t ask for spring break in our city. We don’t want spring break in our city,”

Miami Beach police reported at least 322 arrests on a variety of charges between Feb. 27 and Sunday. Gelber said more than 70 firearms were confiscated in that time. This has been happening despite police officers working up to 14-hour shifts six days a week, according to a city emergency declaration.

The latest shooting happened at around 3:30 a.m. Sunday on Ocean Drive in South Beach, police said. A male was shot and died later at a hospital, and officers chased down a suspect on foot, police said on Twitter. Their identities were not released, nor were any possible charges.

Grainy security footage being shared on social media shows a man pulling a gun from underneath his T-shirt and firing multiple shots, striking another man as crowds quickly scattered.

“Next thing I know, I started hearing about two shots. I got low and got scared,” Travis Turner, a bystander from Michigan, told WSVN-TV.

On Friday night, one male victim was killed and another was seriously injured in a shooting that sent panicked crowds scrambling from restaurants and clubs into the streets. Police detained one person at the scene and found four firearms, but no other details have been made available.

Under the curfew, people must leave businesses before midnight, although hotels can operate later only in service to their guests. A Miami Beach news release said restaurants can stay open only for delivery and the curfew won’t apply to residents, people going to and from work, emergency services and hotel guests. Some roads will be closed off and arriving hotel guests may have to show proof of their reservations.

Last year, the city imposed a midnight curfew following two shootings, also on Ocean Drive. The year before that, authorities made about 1,000 arrests and confiscated dozens of guns during a rowdy spring break that led Miami Beach officials to take steps aimed at calming the annual festivities.

For some business owners, the crowds have become impossible to manage. Mitch Novick, who co-owns the Sherbrooke All Suites Hotel, said the city needs to do more.

“They need to shut it all off,” Novick told WPLG-TV.

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