Miami Beach’s new spring break rules target chaos, not Black visitors | Opinion

Fabiola Santiago’s column accusing Miami Beach of trying to keep out Black spring break crowds introduces unnecessary tensions. The vital public safety measures Miami Beach has implemented are designed to protect all individuals, regardless of their race or ethnicity.

They are a direct response to the very real violence and mob behavior that has destroyed the joy of spring break in Miami Beach, particularly for Black college students seeking a safe and enjoyable vacation.

The data on spring break arrests is telling: nearly half of the arrests during Spring Break are of individuals from Miami-Dade. It’s infuriating that much of the disorder and reckless behavior stems not from our visitors but from within our own greater community.

In response, we have taken steps to deter those who come to Miami Beach looking for trouble. Increasing parking rates to as much $100 and the strategic closure of garages in the entertainment district during peak times are designed to target this issue. These parking measures are not arbitrary; they are data-driven responses aimed at curbing the influx of local troublemakers who have historically contributed to chaos.

Dangerous weapons are being driven into our city, and by making it more challenging and costly to bring vehicles into key areas of Miami Beach, we aim to deter the potential for violence and disorder in an effort to ensure that our city remains safe. It has nothing to do with the color of one’s skin.

Safety measures

Our public safety strategy extends beyond our parking regulations. We’ve endorsed measures including curfews, security searches and bag checks at beach access points, early beach entrance closures, license plate readers, DUI checkpoints, a harsh $516 towing fees on illegal street stunts and takeovers, and a robust approach to traffic management to combat the influx of violence.

These safety measures, including the deployment of undercover operations against illegal short-term rentals and party promoter activities, is designed to ensure the well-being of all individuals, focusing solely on maintaining order and safety.

By framing these measures as discriminatory, the column misrepresents our duty to leave no stone unturned in pursuing public safety — a mandate given to us by our community.

Businesses are hurt

It’s also important to recognize the broader impact of spring break violence on our community. Local businesses, many of which are owned by members of our diverse community, suffer greatly. They face property damage, decreased patronage, employees fearing showing up to work and the difficult decision of whether to remain open during spring break.

It’s a grave disappointment that the actions of individuals from within our community necessitate such stringent measures — the strictest public safety measures ever implemented in Miami Beach’s history.

It appears some would have Miami Beach wait for another shooting, another murder, or still more widespread vandalism and destruction to act rather than taking targeted preventive steps to protect the lives and property of our residents and visitors.

I encourage Miami Herald readers to recognize the severity of these challenges and to support our efforts in maintaining Miami Beach as a premier place to live and a destination that is safe, welcoming and inclusive for all.

Alex Fernandez is a Miami Beach city commissioner.