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’s spring break ‘canceled’ as Florida sprints to get in front of coronavirus pandemic

“Continuing to allow these large group gatherings on the beach is a public health hazard,” Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian said in a statement. “These measures are vital.”

March 16, 2020 | CNN | Miami Beach’s spring break ‘canceled’ as Florida sprints to get in front of coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus Florida: Beaches in South Beach in Miami closed, spring break declared ‘over’

Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian said battling coronavirus is hard enough. But when you add large, energetic crowds and alcohol — not the disinfecting kind — into the mix, strong measures are needed to protect public safety, he said.

“It is certainly unprecedented,” he said. “We’re trying to keep people as healthy as possible, and specifically we are being advised by medical professionals that these type of large crowds are not in people’s well being.”

He said the measures would also protect the health of the spring breakers, who may not fear the disease but who may pass it on to others.

“This is a public safety issue and we have got to address this,” he said. “I support these measures and I believe it is the right thing for the community and frankly for the safety of these spring breakers.”

March 15, 2020 | Tampa Bay Times | Coronavirus Florida: Beaches in South Beach in Miami closed, spring break declared ‘over’

Miami Beach passes new rules to make spring break ‘a lot less fun.’ Will they work?

“We don’t want a circus out there,” said Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who sponsored the item.

Miami Beach commissioners discuss proposals on how to handle crowds during spring break

Meanwhile, Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian hopes to crack down on individuals selling things without a permit, like people who peddle fruit.

Miami Beach Police currently do not have authority in such situations because these are civil infractions.

However, Samuelian wants to make it a criminal offense.

“Some folks got the impression that everything goes in Miami Beach,” said Samuelian. “That is absolutely wrong, and we have got to correct that.”

April 10, 2019 | WSVN 7 | Miami Beach commissioners discuss proposals on how to handle crowds during spring break

After Rowdy Spring Break, Miami Beach May Restrict Party Promoters, Underage Bars

…And Gelber is not the only commission member looking to add more post-spring break regulations — Commissioner Mark Samuelian wants to make it a misdemeanor crime to sell things on public property without authorization. That means police would be able to arrest the coconut and mango peddlers who roam the beach, as well as the amateur python handlers who try to get tourists to pay for photos.

April 9, 2019 | Miami New Times | After Rowdy Spring Break, Miami Beach May Restrict Party Promoters, Underage Bars

Miami Beach’s Spring Break Scooter Rental Ban Could Be Reversed

Commissioners ultimately supported the measure on first reading 5-1 with Gelber voting against, but Mark Samuelian and Micky Steinberg were clear their votes were for first reading only to allow a longer discussion on its second presentation to the Commission. Kristen Rosen Gonzalez was absent.

“I’ll support it on first reading,” Samuelian said, “because I know where it’s coming from. We’re trying to have enforcement but we’re also trying to balance with the business community so I look forward to a more spirited discussion towards second reading.”

December 28, 2018 | RE: Miami Beach | Miami Beach’s Spring Break Scooter Rental Ban Could Be Reversed