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Miami Beach Residents Fear Holiday Trouble Has Become Year-Round Issue

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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Miami Beach is gearing up for the huge crowds, and sometimes trouble that comes with the Memorial Day weekend, but some residents say the trouble is now year round.

A video posted on a Facebook page shows a brawl involving dozens of people on Miami Beach's Ocean Drive.

The incident did not occur last year or last month, but reportedly the week before last.

Another video on the same website shows another recent melee on Ocean Drive, fists flying.  The videos are coming from activists like hotel owner Mitch Novick.

"It's violence that's unacceptable, and no community should have to put up with this," Novick said on Tuesday.

Citizens told committee members at a Miami Beach City Commission meeting that mayhem on Ocean Drive threatens to destroy a major world tourism destination.

"This environment is not conducive to a friendly, fun community," said activist John Duetzman.

Commissioners last year put a proposed 2 a.m. end to alcohol sales up for a public vote, but it was defeated after bars and lounges financed a huge campaign against it. Critics say City Hall has abdicated it's responsibility.

"Unfortunately, our police are subjected to the nonsense that the mayor and commission allow to persist. They could end this overnight if they chose to," Novick said.

Mayor Dan Gelber, elected last year, said he doesn't support putting public safety policy issues to votes of the people, but said he and a new commission aren't sitting idle.

"This is not a place where anything goes," Gelber told the CBS4 News.

"First thing we are doing is increasing our police presence. We've doubled and re-doubled. Just in our last commission meeting we added, I think, a half dozen more police officers," Gelber said.

The mayor said cops are also strictly enforcing open container laws and popping people for pot possession on the beach.  Alcohol sales on sidewalk tables have been banned and umbrellas on public sidewalks, that can hide nefarious activity, have been taken down

Police Chief Dan Oates told commissioner's crime is dramatically down.

"We are at a 17 year low in terms of crime," Oates said.

Detractors say while murder, rape and robbery might be off, drunken lawlessness is taking off.

"There has to be some major bomb that goes off to stop the chaos on Ocean Drive," Duetzman said. "Crime is down, but chaos is up."

Chaos came to call last Memorial Day weekend when three separate shootings left two people dead.


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