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Officials hope Miami Beach spring break curfew will discourage violence

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A curfew and a state of emergency are in place this weekend in Miami Beach. The emergency is spring break. And if you doubt that that's an emergency, we have a warning - this story includes sounds of gunfire. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Miami Beach has warm weather, beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees and lively nightlife. It's become a top destination for young people from around the country who've turned the sidewalks and parks of the resort's entertainment district, South Beach, into an all-night party. The party turned violent this past weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE AND SIRENS)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Run. Run.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Yelling).

ALLEN: After midnight, early Sunday morning and again the following morning, gunfire erupted, panicking the crowd and sending them running.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Yelling).

ALLEN: Five bystanders were shot in the two incidents. But officials say there were no deaths or serious injuries.

Miami Beach's city manager, Alina Hudak, says police also responded to other shootings.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALINA HUDAK: We had over six incidents involving guns being shot and fired and our police department finding casings. We had nine separate incidents where we had officers injured.

ALLEN: Hudak imposed a state of emergency that, with the backing of the city commission, extends through Monday morning. The curfew means the South Beach party will end at midnight.

Miami Beach's mayor, Dan Gelber, has been leading a campaign to discourage spring breakers from coming here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAN GELBER: We don't ask for spring break. We don't promote it. We don't encourage it. We just endure it. And frankly, it's not something we want to endure. We don't want spring break.

ALLEN: Gelber wants to change the city's image from an anything-goes party town to a more sedate, upscale destination for dining and entertainment. But this state of emergency, he says, is about public safety.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GELBER: We just simply cannot have people coming to our city and having to worry about being shot.

ALLEN: Miami Beach's police chief, Rick Clements, says the large number of guns adds to the challenge. Officers have seized 100 guns from people in Miami Beach this spring break, up from 85 confiscated over the same period last year. Clements says officers from other communities supplemented the city's police force this past weekend. Adding more police, he says, won't fix the problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICK CLEMENTS: If you look at the incident that occurred, the shooting that occurred on Saturday night, you can see at least a minimum of 10 officers that were within probably 10 to 15 feet of the shooting when it occurred. It's not a lack of resources.

ALLEN: Miami Beach may extend the state of emergency and the curfew into next weekend if necessary. The good news, officials say, is that by their calendar, spring break has only one more week to go.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF SARAH, THE ILLSTRUMENTALIST'S "PEACH CLOUDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.