Pop Goes The News — There was a time when Canadians flocked to South Beach — strong loonie or not — to enjoy sun-drenched afternoons in the sand and breezy nights sipping cocktails under palm trees.
Now, Canadians are being cautioned about visiting.
“It’s not safe anymore,” says Sam Peres, who works at a South Beach hotel. “It’s not the same. It’s changed for the worse.”
There have been shootings on busy streets like Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive — including a fatal one in October. Street fights and muggings are common.
Businesses in South Beach display police-issued trespassing warnings in their windows.
Ocean Drive, the iconic neon-lit stretch of Art Deco buildings in the heart of South Beach, resembles a police state. Cruisers and officers are everywhere and, in Lummus Park, an elevated monitoring station is set-up to keep an eye on the street.
At night, generators placed every few blocks power floodlights that are aimed at the street and its many bars and restaurants. At least one police cruiser sits parked at the base of every floodlight.
“It’s become a scene of chaos and crime, from prostitution and drug dealing to muggings,” Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine told the Miami New Times this past summer.
“The story goes out all over the world. How do you quantify the cost of negative advertising that is for the brand of Miami Beach?”
This month, a New York Times report on the changing character of Ocean Drive quoted city commissioner Ricky Arriola describing the street as “unattractive, unsafe and a breeding ground for crime.”
Hotel owner Mitch Novick told the Times: “It has just gotten to the point where the place has become a 24-hour carnival-like crime-ridden circus where public safety is no longer ensured.”
Novick regularly posts videos of street fights and other criminal activity on YouTube and Facebook.
He recently shared a video compilation of Miami Beach mayhem during the high-profile Art Basel weekend.
Locals blame the problems in South Beach on an influx of black visitors who were originally drawn to the area by Urban Beach Week, which is held over the Memorial Day holiday.
On websites like Trip Advisor, there are reviews of Ocean Drive that mention the changing vibe.
“It was packed with drunks, booming noice, snakes, dogs and dangerous looking people,” wrote one person who was there in May.
“Rude pot smoking tourists everywhere and cameras set up by police with spotlights on certain corners,” reads another comment.