'We Need More Cops Out There': Miami Beach Police Chief Discusses Art Basel And Spring Break

Nov 26, 2018

Events like Art Basel and Spring Break bring tens of thousands of spectators, art aficionados and tourists to Miami, but creates logistical challenges for residents.

Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel Oates says the "real solution" to improve the safety and traffic nightmare is a "robust" security plan and more cops on the ground.  

Oates joined Sundial to talk about his department's efforts.

This conversation has been edited lightly for clarity. 

WLRN: What do the residents expect? What do you tend to hear from them when a big event like this comes?

Oates: I think that they generally expect that there will be traffic and they have to make adjustments. Basel is a little easier than some of the other events because of the nature of the crowd -- it's a little older, there's less partying in the streets than there are for other events. But generally there's an acceptance by the residents that this is part of the price to live in Miami Beach. Basel is a significant economic engine that drives who we are and our brand.

Do you have to find extra help from outside?

For Basel a little bit. There's a lot of layered security for major events like Basel, some of which we don't talk about, but we have friends in the federal government who help us because it is such a prominent high profile event. So there's an extraordinary level of security, a portion of which we don't talk about.

You have this very expensive art that has to be protected. Is that on you and in your force?

The answer is that Basel has a very robust plan for private security. It is supplemented by law enforcement and we are everywhere as part of the plan. But Art Basel itself expends an extraordinary amount on private security.

For Art Basel, do you have a special road closures or are you trying to divert traffic in any way?

Anywhere in and around the convention center and in the center of downtown Miami Beach there will be challenges getting to and from.

We still have some time before Spring Break comes, but what do you foresee?

The real solution is: we need more cops out there so we have different sort of options for deployment to control crowd and control traffic. The major step that the commission took this year is they gave me several hundred thousand dollars for special events over time so that I can put more cops out there for the two critical weekends at the height of Spring Break. This year we're projecting that's going to be St. Patrick's Day weekend and the following weekend.

You've already started by reaching out to universities; you've written a letter basically telling them what?

We've written a letter to all the major colleges in Florida and we've reached out to a number of other spots around the southeast and the rest of the country basically saying, 'obviously your students are welcome here for Spring Break but there will be a level of enforcement and an insistence on obeying our laws that you have not seen in the past. So please share the message with your students. Everyone's welcomed, we'd love to have them but if they come here and if they break the law... they're going to be arrested.'