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Spring Breakers beware: Florida won’t tolerate chaos of recent years, DeSantis says

Fort Lauderdale Police patrol the beach as Spring Breakers sunbathe in March 2023. Spring Break 2024 runs from about Feb. 24 to April 6, the Saturday after Easter. (Carline Jean/South Florida ֱ)
Carline Jean/South Florida ֱ
Fort Lauderdale Police patrol the beach as Spring Breakers sunbathe in March 2023. Spring Break 2024 runs from about Feb. 24 to April 6, the Saturday after Easter. (Carline Jean/South Florida ֱ)
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Spring Break in Florida won’t “turn into some melee” this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis asserted this week.

The chaos of deadly shootings, hundreds of arrests and forced curfews have plagued Miami Beach in recent years. The city, Fort Lauderdale and other Spring Break hotspots will welcome thousands of college students from about Feb. 24 to April 6, the Saturday after Easter.

While the party-filled weekends can be good for local businesses and are a “great time to be in Florida,” alcohol-fueled mayhem won’t be tolerated, DeSantis said Monday in Miami Beach.

Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Law Enforcement can provide resources to citiesso “that Spring Break does not turn into some melee,” DeSantis said at the news conference, receiving a loud round of applause from the audience.

Crowds gather at Ocean Drive and Eighth during spring break in Miami Beach, Florida, on Saturday, March 18, 2023. (D.A. Varela/Miami Herald)
Crowds gather at Ocean Drive and Eighth during spring break in Miami Beach, Florida, on Saturday, March 18, 2023. (D.A. Varela/Miami Herald)

Miami Beach likely will be a top priority, especially since it’s been one of the “most concerning” areas in the past few years, DeSantis said. Two people were killed in two separate shootings last year.

“We’re basically tailoring this year’s plans to the needs of the city, so we will continue working with our local, state and federal partners,” Miami Beach Police Department Public Information Officer Christopher Bess said.

Fort Lauderdale’s beach, along with Daytona Beach and Panama City Beach, has also been an iconic Spring Break destination for decades. While Fort Lauderdale hasn’t seen serious incidents like Miami Beach in recent years, the city’s police and fire rescue have previously maintained an increased presence at the beach and in downtown during the break.

Spring Breaker arrested at Rock Bar in Fort Lauderdale after punching officer in the face, police say | Watch video

Fort Lauderdale Police are still planning measures for the upcoming break, spokesperson Casey Liening said. FHP has offered its assistance.The department has not yet released any details about its enforcement plans.

The city from the area of the 900 block of Seabreeze Boulevard, north to the 1700 block of North A1A prohibited tents, tables and similar structures and alcohol on public beach property in addition to limiting loud live or amplified music last year. Officers were equipped with Narcan, a brand of naloxone, which can reverse opioid overdoses.

A total of nine people were arrested during the 2023 Spring Break, the majority locals who were arrested for traffic-related charges, according to Fort Lauderdale Police statistics. More than 2,200 citations were issued.

A Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue lifeguard watches over beachgoers during Spring Break on Fort Lauderdale Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Amy Beth Bennett/AP
A Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue lifeguard watches over beachgoers during Spring Break on Fort Lauderdale beach in March 2022. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida ֱ)

During the 2022 Spring Break, six college students, including U.S. Military Academy at West Point cadets, overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine at a vacation rental in Wilton Manors. The Lauderhill man who sold them the drugs met the tourists on the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

Wilton Manors Police spokesperson Det. Haley Halverson said “there will be extra safety measures and additional officers” in the city’s arts and entertainment district during this Spring Break.

Hollywood Police Department spokesperson Deanna Bettineschi said the department will also have an enhanced police presence and patrols during the break.

Fort Lauderdale police serve up Spring Break safety rules

The tourists haven’t historically been the ones causing problems, Miami Beach Commissioner Alex Fernandez said. Out of the hundreds who were arrested last Spring Break in Miami Beach, Fernandez said more than half lived in Miami-Dade County.

“It’s people driving into our city with weapons, with drugs, with alcohol and creating the problem in our streets,” Fernandez said.

Between Feb. 27 and March 18, 2023, in Miami Beach, four people were arrested for aggravated assault, three for aggravated battery, seven for robbery, 20 for carrying a concealed firearm, 37 for felony drug-related offenses, 12 for battery on a law enforcement officer and 82 for other felonies, according to a January 2024 city resolution discussing this year’s plans. More than 70 firearms were impounded in the time period.

Vintage Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale | PHOTOS

Fernandez said after last year’s incidents, his first call was to the governor’s office to request support from FHP. This year, the commission is asking city administration to request reinforcement from the state and other law enforcement agencies within the county, he said.

“Last year it was kind of like an afterthought,” Fernandez said. “This year it’s a proactive measure to be reaching out to FHP” and other agencies in the county.

Miami Beach enacted a midnight after two shootings also in South Beach, and in 2021, about , the Associated Press reported. There was an 8 p.m. curfew in place that year.

College students invade South Florida for Spring Break 2023 | PHOTOS

DeSantis said Florida’s popularity among tourists grew during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has credited Florida’s increases in tourism to his policies keeping businesses open.

“I think what happened in Florida was when COVID hit, starting 2021, we were, like, the epicenter for everything because people knew they could come and live their life … So I think that created some unique pressures in places like Miami Beach,” DeSantis said.

The busiest weekends are expected tobe March 8-10 and March 15-17.

Here are some reminders on what can result in an arrest or a notice to appear, according to Fort Lauderdale Police:

  • Possessing alcohol under the age of 21.
  • Giving alcohol to someone under the age of 21.
  • Possessing or displaying a fake ID.
  • Possessing an open container of alcohol in public spaces.
  • Refusing to leave a business or returning to a business after being warned.
  • Causing a public disturbance while intoxicated.
  • Fighting and violent or threatening behavior.
  • Public indecency or exposing sexual organs.

Here are some of the measures Miami Beach is planning for this year, according to Fernandez and city spokesperson Melissa Berthier:

  • Increased towing costs, parking costs and restrictions for city-owned parking garages and lots in some parts of the city for non-residents.
  • Limited entrances to the beach on Ocean Drive with security checkpoints.
  • Close parts of public beaches at 6 p.m.
  • Enforcement of noise ordinance.
  • License plate readers to capture vehicles entering Miami Beach on busier break weekends.
  • Strict enforcement of “open container” law.
  • DUI checkpoints.
  • Possible suspension of sidewalk café operations at 7 p.m. if necessary.
  • Possible midnight curfew if necessary.

“I hope that these strict measures and the fact that the city is willing to take action is a deterrent to those that come not to legitimately enjoy our city but that come to wreak havoc,” Fernandez said.

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