Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Miami Beach has a message for spring breakers: Stay home


When you think of Miami, chances are your mind goes to Miami Beach. The city, with beautiful Art Deco architecture and a long, pristine beachfront, attracts tourists from all over the world. But this year, the city is telling one specific group of tourists to stay away.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: We just want different things.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Our idea of a good time is relaxing on the beach...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: ...Hitting up the spa...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: ...Or checking out a new restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: You just want to get drunk in public and ignore laws.

RASCOE: That's an official ad from the city of Miami Beach which says it's breaking up with spring break. To talk more about why, Miami Beach Commissioner Alex Fernandez joins us now. Thank you for being with us.

ALEX FERNANDEZ: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

RASCOE: So Miami Beach is a world-famous destination. Why is the city telling some people to stay away?

FERNANDEZ: Well, because we've had too many people end up victims of crimes, too many people shot in our streets. Over the past 10 years, 33 shootings alone during the spring break period. Last year, 16 stampedes on a small stretch of Ocean Drive, on that beautiful, iconic Art Deco postcard that should bring joy and happiness to tourists of our city. Yet they end up becoming victimized or in the worst case, getting shot and killed.

RASCOE: So what happens if people show up anyway?

FERNANDEZ: Well, we want them to show up. We want lawful individuals who want to come and enjoy Miami Beach. Statistically, we know that over half of the arrests from years past have been from locals from our own South Florida community. And what that tells us is that the drugs and the dangerous weapons are being driven into our city by criminals coming in to cause shootings and create the dangerous environment. So what are we doing? We're installing license plate readers on every one of our causeways. So if you have an arrest warrant or a stolen vehicle, you'll get pulled over by the police in addition to DUI checkpoints. But most importantly, since we know the problem is driven into our city and it's parking in our public parking garages, well, that is something that we can control. So we're shutting down garages in our city to preserve the fun for the legitimate spring breaker that has flown into Miami Beach to stay in our hotels, to enjoy the beaches and restaurants, and also preserve the quality of life for our residents.

RASCOE: How do you balance trying to avoid the violence of the past couple of years versus the concern of not having as many people visit and patronize local businesses? Like, how do you balance those two things?

FERNANDEZ: Well, a lot of the businesses themselves have come to us and asked us, even begged us, to please pass stricter measures because even the workforce of these businesses don't feel safe. If we allow the loss of life and bloodshed that occurs during two weekends of March to become associated with the brand and image of our city, well, that hurts the economy. That hurts people's ability to come back to our city. So we want to make sure that these two weekends - that we redefine them.

RASCOE: There has been some criticism to this ad campaign by civil rights advocates and even Miami-Dade County commissioners who say there's a racial component to the message, given the large number of Black tourists who visit Miami Beach during spring break. What do you say to those criticisms?

FERNANDEZ: I listen to everyone's concerns, and we have to be empathetic because certainly everyone is speaking from their experience. But the reality is, when we look at spring breaks of years past, the 33 shootings that have happened over the course of 10 years, the 16 stampedes that happened last year on Ocean Drive - who's the real victim? The sad part is that the majority of the spring breakers who end up becoming the victim of the law breakers - they're Black college students coming to Miami Beach just wanting to have a good time.

RASCOE: That's Alex Fernandez, commissioner with the city of Miami Beach. Thank you so much for being with us.

FERNANDEZ: It's a pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.