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Florida spring break has family beach towns bracing for crowds as Miami Beach cracks down

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Miami Beach’s “divorce” from spring break after a crime-crazed 2023 season will likely push party seekers about 30 miles up the coast to areas like Fort Lauderdale, which has the largest beach in Broward County.

And officials seem to publicly welcome the annual bash as they prep for the sudden influx. 

Broward County has already beefed up security by enforcing higher parking fees, setting up license plate readers and security cameras, and coordinating local and county law enforcement to establish a highly visible presence. 

Within the county, Fort Lauderdale is expected to be this year’s hot spot, and the city’s mayor, Dean Trantalis, said he “welcomes all visitors all year round,” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t contingency plans in case fun in the sun spirals into rowdy chaos and crime. 

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The city reserves the right to close sidewalk cafes if situations get out of hand, and the Hollywood police said there will be a ban on alcohol, smoking, and single-use plastic, canopy and cooler rules, and prohibition of animals on the Broadwalk, according to a report by WSVN.

There are other plans on the table for Fort Lauderdale, which include raising parking fees and fines, that are expected to be approved during the next city meeting on March 5, according to the Sun-Sentinel. 

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Florida spring break

Trantalis will announce additional plans in greater detail for this year’s spring break during a Friday morning press conference. 

“We know that with our community-oriented police force and first responders on the ready, Fort Lauderdale is a place you can peacefully enjoy with plenty of restaurants and enviable views,” Trantalis said in a statement on Wednesday.

Fort Lauderdale has a spring break web page calling it “organized fun.” 

“Welcome, Spring Breakers! We’re excited to have you,” it says. “We want you to enjoy everything that Fort Lauderdale has to offer. But we’re setting a few ground rules to make sure this Spring Break season is enjoyable for everyone.”

It notes that alcohol, coolers, tents and tables, scooters and live music will be limited in certain places throughout March, with increased police presence, a beach sweep/cleanup each day at 5:30 p.m. and more enforcement in entertainment areas from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. each day.

The city also lays out “beach areas of interest,” though, along with “spring break ride share zones” and a free transportation service.

Spring breakers spend time on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Miami Beach wants nothing to do with spring break

Miami Beach officials and law enforcement were vocal last year about distancing the city from spring break after police said they made 488 arrests, including more than 230 felony arrests, and seized 105 firearms during the annual March madness. 

Wild melees, unruly crowds, brazen shootings that included two homicides, stampedes and lawless behavior – some of which were captured in viral videos on social media – ran rampant through the streets of South Beach.

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Last year, the city issued a state of emergency, which has been done virtually every year during spring break.

“We have been struggling with spring break for quite some time,” Miami Beach Police Chief Wayne Jones said during a Feb. 13 meeting, when city officials introduced new rules that essentially gut the spring break scene there. 

“Essentially, we want to divorce ourselves from spring break.”

Spring breakers on Ocean Drive
People walking at night

The new rules, which are outlined below, are expected to displace the spring breakers. But whether they will move north or west to places like Wynwood is the question, and that’s unknown. 

Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner, who was recently elected, told Fox News Digital that law and order was a priority when he took office this year. He had a direct message for potential visitors.

“Come here, enjoy our city, but don’t come looking for trouble,” he said. “It won’t end well.”

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Trantalis told the Sun-Sentinel that Fort Lauderdale won’t take as drastic action because they haven’t had the same issues as Miami Beach, but they expect visitors to behave. 

“We are all aware of the fact that Miami Beach is clamping down hard on spring break,” Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steve Glassman said, according to the Sun-Sentinel’s report.

“I just want to make sure that we are prepared for any kind of influx of folks that might say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be a lot easier just to go to Fort Lauderdale.’ Because the things that Miami Beach is doing are pretty much going to say, ‘Hey, we really don’t want you here.’ They really are saying, ‘Please don’t come here.’”

Florida spring break
Spring breakers spend time on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

What changes did Miami Beach implement?

In addition to curfews, the Miami Beach City Commission made other changes – laid out on a city webpage titled “Miami Beach is breaking up with spring break” – which will last through March:

  • A flat $30 parking rate at city garages and lots in South Beach ($100 from March 7-10 and March 14-17) except for residents and employees
  • Restricted entry to those garages and lots after 6 p.m.
  • A double towing rate of $516 for nonresidents
  • Security checkpoints and bag checks to enter the beach
  • Beach entry via Ocean Drive limited to Fifth, 10th and 12th streets
  • Closure of those beach entrances at 6 p.m.
Spring breakers spend time on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Spring breakers spend time on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Additional measures will take effect during the March 7-10 and March 14-17 weekends, including:

  • License plate readers on the eastbound lanes of the Julia Tuttle and MacArthur causeways from March 8-10 and March 15-17 starting at 6 p.m., expected to cause significant traffic delays
  • A DUI sobriety checkpoint on Fifth Street on March 8-9 and March 15-16
  • A ban on rentals of Slingshots, golf carts, electric scooters and other motorized vehicles from March 7-10 and March 14-17

There’s also discussion about temporarily repealing an option for civil citations for low-level marijuana possession, the Miami Herald reported. 

Jones said people can expect license plate readers, DUI checkpoints and more police in South Beach “than you’ve ever seen before.”

“It will be difficult to get here to our city, and once you get here, the expectation will be that you play by the rules,” he said, according to the Miami Herald. 

“If you are looking to cause problems, do not come to Miami Beach …. Our message is simple: we want people to enjoy their time here, but will not tolerate the behavior we have witnessed in the past few years.”

Fox News Digital’s Julia Bonavita contributed to this report.

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