Miami Beach isn’t Vegas. A 2 a.m. last call makes sense | Opinion

By MARK SAMUELIAN AND ALEX R. PIQUERO

Much has been made about Miami Beach’s spring break experience, especially in 2021, and residents are outraged. Even though we are amid a pandemic with curfews, that did not stop thousands of people from converging on our region to take a break from their lives — many attracted by an anything-goes perception.

The problem, of course, was not just the much larger crowds concentrated in a very small geographic area. It was also the chaotic scenes, fights, stampedes, arrests and crimes that emerged. Indeed, during the period February 3-April 5, 2021 there were over 1,300 arrests in Miami Beach with 58% made in the entertainment-heavy Art Deco Cultural District. Most people do not come to Miami Beach with nefarious intentions, so blaming people is not the solution. As lessons from criminological research shows, we can address crime by altering the situation.

One of those solutions involves stopping the sale of alcohol earlier, such as the 2 a.m. proposal by Mayor Dan Gelber. This is a good first step of a comprehensive program, one focused on public safety as its primary rationale, and here’s why.

First, when we compare Miami Beach to other cities and locations with entertainment districts that closely abut residences, the majority of dining and entertainment establishments do not stay open and serving alcohol until 5 a.m. This includes a long list of cities, like San Antonio, Texas, and even some in Florida, like Tampa. Right now, Miami Beach operates more like Las Vegas than anyplace else.

Second, criminological research shows that a combination of too much alcohol and late-night activities act as crime generators and attractors. Lessons learned from various studies confirm that extending closing hours is associated with increases in crime, including DUIs and DWIs, while rolling back closing hours is associated with less crime. The bottom line: Limiting alcohol sales relates to lower crime.

Third, the world of professional sports has also successfully implemented alcohol restrictions. Many Major League Baseball teams, including the Miami Marlins, end alcohol sales at the end of the seventh inning. As well, many NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins, end in the third quarter. The research is clear: Limiting sales in this manner has been found to be related to less crime, including driving while intoxicated and aggravated assault.

Finally, savvy business leaders recognize that in the medium- and long-term, this change will likely have a positive financial impact. Many of the trouble-making visitors were not patronizing businesses, and the resulting images have certainly not been helpful to the city’s brand. At the same time, reduced alcohol hours will lessen overtime demands on the Miami Beach Police Department and its partner agencies improving the financial equation for the city, which is currently operating at an estimated $6 million deficit in the Art Deco Cultural District.

We are mindful of that fact that businesses have been hurt during the past year. Jobs lost, profits gone unrealized — a world turned upside down. The proposed solution is a good first step, but it is not the last. Miami Beach can and should study the public safety and economic impacts of this strategy. If it does not work as planned, then let’s try something else. Perfection should not be the enemy of the good. This is a good lesson to remember as we all seek to welcome our visitors and ensure that they have a pleasant and safe experience, while also making certain that our residents continue to be happy and secure in the place they chose to call home.

Mark Samuelian is a Miami Beach city commissioner, and Alex R. Piquero is chair of sociology and arts & sciences distinguished scholar at the University of Miami.

April 20, 2021 | Sun Sentinel | Miami Beach isn’t Vegas. A 2 a.m. last call makes sense | Opinion

Commission meets in Miami Beach as crime continues picking up ahead of spring break

“The vast majority of these incidents are visitor on visitor,” said Miami Beach City Commissioner Mark Samuelian. “The problem that we have is that we’re not policing the same people.”

February 8, 2021 | Local10.com | Commission meets in Miami Beach as crime continues picking up ahead of spring break

Miami Beach Continues to Wrestle with its South Beach Entertainment District

In a special meeting to discuss proposals to fix what Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber calls the “anything goes” atmosphere in the City’s South Beach Entertainment District, Commissioner Mark Samuelian summed up the discussion with the word “frustrating.” After praising the City’s Police Department for its work and efforts to increase enforcement, all of the Commissioners expressed a desire to step it up.

Commissioner Mark Samuelian said he agrees with the enforcement push, but he said the area needs more. Referencing the entire package of what Gelber calls “carrots and sticks” – measures that include development incentives, repealing the noise exemption, tying alcohol and entertainment licenses to Conditional Use Permits, and increased penalties for bad operators, Samuelian said, “As I think about the problem, my approach to the solution… is all of the above. I think we need to use all of the tools. I don’t think it’s just an enforcement issue. I don’t it’s just a noise issue. I think we need every tool, and the risk is not doing enough.”

He emphasized the “challenges” with police visibility, noting resident observations as well as his own. “We need to raise the game in terms of visibility” but he underscored a comment the Police Chief made about the impact on other neighborhoods when resources are diverted to the MXE and the movement of crime out of the Entertainment District into nearby areas as a result of increased enforcement in the MXE. Clements said MBPD has seen increased problems on Collins Avenue recently.

Samuelian said he was happy to hear the Administration was giving consideration to not renewing sidewalk café permits at the end of the year for bad operators. Reiterating that the permits are “a privilege, not a right,” he said, “It seems like we just have a hard time reining in this bad behavior despite the legislation that we’ve put forward” in the past few years. “I really hope we can do a better job reining in these bad operators and not giving them the opportunity to make money on the public right of way.”

December 5, 2020 | RE:Miami Beach | Miami Beach Continues to Wrestle with its South Beach Entertainment District

Crime in Miami Beach: Is Perception Reality?

Commissioner Mark Samuelian said, “First, I believe that this perception of increased crime – and I think we’re all on the same page – is a serious concern. People have to feel safe and we’re getting more of this than we like. That’s why we need to do something and I think what the Chief laid out is a potential path forward.”

He acknowledged the UCR crime data which consists of victim reported violent crimes is down double digits, a rate that is “almost identical to Miami and Florida.” While he said, “one is too many,” he noted the “serious reported crimes are down but we’re also hearing more from the community.”

“I think the focus on the Entertainment District and Ocean Drive is appropriate,” Samuelian said. He echoed Rosen Gonzalez that he didn’t want to take officers from other areas but said, “I like many of the ideas that I heard.”

November 3, 2018 | RE: Miami Beach | Crime in Miami Beach: Is Perception Reality?

Amid complaints about drug dealing, Commissioner gets tough with Police Chief

Commissioner Mark Samuelian said, “Public safety is job one.” Noting the Commission has committed additional resources, he said, “Obviously, what I’m hearing is a concern and I look forward to continuing the discussion and specific policy ideas of how we address it.” Whether it’s additional funding, changes in the traffic or pedestrian environment, he said, “I’m open to ideas but this is top priority.”

September 28, 2018 | RE: Miami Beach | Amid complaints about drug dealing, Commissioner gets tough with Police Chief

More Police Officers for Ocean Drive

Resolution sponsor, Commissioner Mark Samuelian said, “It’s a wonderful collaborative opportunity with the Ocean Drive Association.” He told his colleagues the action will be easily measured in terms of its impact on crime and the willingness of the business community to continue to pay for the additional officers.

May 19, 2018 | RE: Miami Beach | More Police Officers for Ocean Drive