I wanted to follow up on my Spring Break Message from Monday to share what happened at yesterday’s emergency Commission Meeting and give you a sense of what to expect. Our City staff explained the dynamic -- the confluence of Spring Break visitors and a holiday weekend with St. Patrick’s Day, along with state construction on one of our causeways. It led to unacceptable gridlock and public safety issues that we took steps to address in the meeting.
By way of background, there were approximately 600 colleges on Spring Break last weekend. Those spring breakers combined with locals from the tri-county area and overloaded our capacity. Our public safety strategy so far has included the use of License Plate Readers (LPR) to detect vehicles with outstanding warrants; use of surveillance cameras; police patrols on cars, bikes, ATVs, and on foot; crowd control buffer zones and peaceful crowd dispersal techniques; undercover operations; and the deployment of Goodwill Ambassadors to proactively engage with visitors and help them follow our rules. Additionally, we had approximately 100 more police officers on duty compared to St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2018.

It obviously was not enough. We have to do better.

The volume of visitors last weekend in part of our entertainment district was unmanageable, as was the behavior of too many visitors. We have responded accordingly with new and enhanced strategies. 
New Spring Break Measures
The Entertainment District
Our Police Department is increasing staffing to the highest possible levels, known as “Alpha Bravo.” An additional 80 officers from our department will be deployed this weekend. We are also bringing in outside agencies to assist, expecting approximately 70 more officers from them.

Two or more officers will be at the intersections of 5th Street & Collins, and 5th & Washington. Officers will also be deployed at fixed posts at every intersection on Collins and Washington from 6th street up to Lincoln Road. While I hate that we need to deploy this level of law enforcement -- I think it important that we make the point that we are prepared and able to enforce our laws.

A specially trained group of officers will be actively enforcing our open container and marijuana ordinances on the sand of our beaches. In fairness, officers will give each individual an opportunity to follow the law by disposing of the alcohol or drugs in front of the officer before any arrests are made, but make no mistake: those who insist on breaking the law after that warning will be arrested.

We are also stepping up our Code Enforcement and citing establishments in violation, like this past weekend when one club was cited and shut down for being over capacity. We are making it clear that our City has zero tolerance for bad actors.
Residential Zones
We are taking new steps to protect the residents in the Flamingo Park and South of Fifth Neighborhoods, the two residential zones immediately abutting the entertainment district. We are establishing a residential boundary around the entire Flamingo Park area - it will take effect Friday evening and last until Sunday morning. Flamingo Park residents should carry a photo ID with them in order to access the area.
This weekend there will be also additional officers stationed South of Fifth in key locations, marked by blue dots on the map above.
I share residents’ frustration with the traffic situation we faced last weekend, and we are adjusting our traffic management. Our City too often feels like a Rubik's Cube, where solving or addressing one problem exacerbates another - this was the case last weekend when we found our enhanced License Plate Reader (LPR) teams slowing resident traffic too much.

We’ve course-corrected by moving the MacArthur LPR detail off the Causeway and onto 5th street and starting the Julia Tuttle Causeway LPR detail later in the evenings. This way we balance public safety without compounding our traffic woes. The Julia Tuttle will have 2 lanes open at all times and 1 lane closed this weekend during the following times: Friday, March 22, 10pm to 3am; Saturday, March 23, 10pm to 3am.

On top of maintaining Ocean Drive as pedestrian only, this weekend the City will also remove parking on Collins and Washington Avenue to enhance the flow of traffic.

That said, traffic is inescapable on a barrier island that welcomes 14 million visitors per year and where our population of 90,000 can quadruple overnight. There is also no avoiding some difficulties caused by the State of Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) MacArthur Causeway project.

This construction is needed to make critical repairs to the bridge, and necessitates keeping 1 lane of Eastbound (EB) traffic closed at all times. The FDOT project manager attended yesterday’s meeting and explained this EB lane closure will be in effect for 6 months (2 months per lane repair, for 3 lanes), despite our requests and questions about expediting the project.

While we were pleased at his report that all 3 Westbound (WB) lanes will be open soon (with only intermittent single lane closures) we have to accept that EB traffic will be impacted for a while to come. This weekend the MacArthur Causeway will have 2 lanes open at all times - unchanged from the existing FDOT traffic pattern.

Additional information is available on the SR A1A/MacArthur Causeway East Bridge project page of the department's website . You can also contact Construction Community Outreach Specialist Melissa J. Rodriguez at 1-305-570-8076 or email her at [email protected] .
Moving Forward
So, in closing: to our residents , it's vital that you feel safe in your City. Nothing is more important than preserving your quality of life.

To our visitors , you are welcome here as long as you follow our laws and respect our community. This is not a place where anything goes, and if that is your reason for coming here, please go elsewhere.

And to our law enforcement and first responders , thank you for working long, difficult days and nights to keep us safe and for exercising your best judgment under trying circumstances. We appreciate your service.

As always, thanks for the letting me serve as your Mayor.