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The South Florida Roundup

Miami-Dade Police Surveillance, Cruises Get Closer To Sailing From South Florida, And The Beach's Last Call Battle

Miami-Dade police officer in a parked patrol car with their lights on

The past two weekends have been violent and deadly in Miami-Dade County — and other parts of South Florida. At least six people have died in separate shootings, and dozens have been injured.

Miami-Dade County commissioners approved a plan from Mayor Daniella Levine Cava that had been in the works before this latest string of shootings. It is designed as a longer-term strategy to combat gun violence with summer internships, counseling and jobs for young people identified as being at-risk.

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"The Peace and Prosperity Plan" is in addition to the Miami-Dade police strategy announced a week ago called "Operation Summer Heat." That initiative is law enforcement’s short-term response to the shootings. It Includes more police patrols, license plate readers and monitoring social media. The county also will be using federal pandemic stimulus money to expand its ShotSpotter system — a listening system designed to detect and help locate the sound of gunshots.

WLRN reporter Danny Rivero said municipal law enforcement agencies are partnering with the code enforcement officers “to try to start immediately cracking down on what they're calling illegal party scenes.” Like the mass shooting that happened over Memorial Day weekend in northwest Miami-Dade, outside of a billiard hall that was illegally operating as a nightclub.

Criminologist Alexis Piquero chairs the University of Miami's department of sociology and arts & sciences. He helped the county develop the "Peace and Prosperity Plan." He said the best strategy to try to curb gun violence is by combining policing with social programs aimed at addressing social issues driving the violence.

“So the Miami-Dade police, when they rolled out 'Operation Summer Heat,' and I can say this fairly strongly, they're using what we in criminology have known as really good evidence based practices for disrupting hotspots of crime,” Piquero said. “So you are going to the places that have repeated calls for service. They could be crime calls for service or loud partying. And so that's where code enforcement comes in.”

Piquero said the increased surveillance methods police in Miami-Dade will be using — like monitoring social media — aren't meant to monitor average citizens.

“Police are not just scouring the typical social media that you and I might be used to, there's other underground social media that exist in the world,” Piquero said. “And so police are trying to tackle this from multiple perspectives because criminals are always one step ahead of the technology. And a lot of the stuff we see right now is fallout from fights and arguments that happen on social media — and they they transfer into the street.”

Cruise Ships To Set Sail Soon

This week Celebrity Cruises became the first cruise ship with paying passengers to set sail from a North American port since the industry was shut down due to the pandemic.

The Celebrity Millennium, and its 600 or so passengers, set sail from St. Maarten for a seven-day cruise.

Two passengers on board have tested positive for COVID-19.

The cruise company said the two shared a room, and tested positive during the required end-of-trip testing protocols. They are asymptomatic and are quarantined.

It is a cautious beginning of what the industry and cruise passengers hope is a return to sailing.

Ships in Florida are inching closer to raising anchors and welcoming guests aboard once again, even as the standoff continues between Gov. Ron DeSantis and cruise ships over whether passengers will have to be vaccinated before coming on board.

Hannah Sampson is a reporter for the Washington Post covering travel news. She said the two positive tests were discovered during a required end-of-cruise COVID test.

“Many, many other people on the ship who have also been tested, including some of [those passengers'] close contacts, have tested negative,” Sampson said. “So in that sense, you know, it's not great that people on this vaccinated ship have tested positive. But the good news is that it hasn't hasn't spread as far as they know.”

Sampson said the passengers will remain in St. Maarten until they test negative for the virus.

Last Call For Alcohol

This week, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge described the Miami Beach city commission’s effort to stop the sale of alcohol at 2 a.m., at South Beach bars and clubs, “arbitrary and unlawful.”

Last call was moved up from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. in late May after commissioners OK'd a new law. But the Clevelander on Ocean Drive sued, and a judge said the city's ordinance was not done properly.

Judge Beatrice Butchko said the city should have pitched the change as a new zoning rule which requires approval from five city commissioners — not the four that approved moving up the cut-off time for alcohol sales.

Instead, Miami Beach had presented the law as a general ordinance, which needs only a simple majority for approval.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said the city will appeal the decision.

It’s just the latest development in the years-long effort by Miami Beach city leaders to change the culture and commerce of South Beach.

Miami Herald reporter Martin Vassolo has been following the story and said rolling back the hours for alcohol sales was spearheaded by the city’s mayor.

“Mayor Gelber argues that the alcohol-fueled misbehavior is hurting the quality of life of residents who live in this district and sending out the wrong message — that South Beach is a hard-partying destination,” Vassolo said. “So he has long wanted to change that perception and bring in investment that caters more to other uses like residential, rather than what he calls an entertainment-only district.”

Vassolo said despite the judge’s ruling, the 2 a.m. last call in South Beach’s entertainment district is still in effect. It will remain in place until the judge signs an order.

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Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.