Terrance Smith hasn’t had much difficulty selling South Beach as a Memorial Day weekend destination this year. The promoter, who since 2001 has pumped up Miami Beach as the spot to be for several hundred thousand members of what he calls the “hip-hop generation,” says bookings for hotel rooms remain as popular as ever — despite police-involved shootings during the weekend last year.
“People don’t think about something that happened 12 months ago,” Smith said.
Maybe not outside South Florida.
But when the expected crowds return to South Beach this month, they will find that wounds inflicted by years of raucous, days-long street bacchanals were ripped open last May when 11 officers unleashed a barrage of bullets on Collins Avenue during their chase of a driver they said was armed.
The driver died. Four bystanders were hit by bullets.
This year, the heavy police presence, which some argue contributed to the tension, will intensify significantly. A checkpoint. Watch towers. Police in pairs on every corner. Drivers on all three causeways leading into South Beach — the MacArthur, Venetian and Julia Tuttle — will be affected, with police surveillance on the MacArthur and Tuttle.
“What we’re trying to control is just the volume [of people.] We reach a breaking point that we just can’t handle,’’ said Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez, named chief in March.