Some beach resorts are ready to throw in the towel.
After an unusually large turnout of college and university students to celebrate spring break — an annual event in which young people arrive in droves on beaches along the warm southern coasts of the United States — locals and law enforcement are worn out.
"Our city has seven miles of beautiful, pristine, sugar-sand beaches. But during spring break, a small area got a little too rowdy," said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. "People were fighting. We thought it was unsafe. ... Some of the fights seem scripted."
Video of a swimsuit fistfight between a young woman and man circulated widely on social media. In a tragic accident, a young woman leaning out of a car window for a selfie was ejected onto the highway, struck by a car and died.
Officials called for reinforcements.
"We saw an increase of 33 percent in larger crowds," explained Officer Ernesto Rodriguez of the Miami Beach Police Department. "We requested the assistance of outside agencies within Miami Dade County to assist us.”
Beach resorts like those in the southern state of Florida — which offer about 2,172 kilometers of sunny and warm coastline — traditionally scoop up millions of dollars each year from college students visiting from colder and cloudier regions on spring break.
MBPD working around the clock managing the large crowds on Miami Beach. We continue to ask our visitors to act responsibly and treat our city with respect.COME ON VACATION DON’T LEAVE ON PROBATION https://t.co/9klwAWGIPY pic.twitter.com/OcZS0Yd9tA— Miami Beach Police (@MiamiBeachPD) March 16, 2019
In exchange, the beach towns typically receive hordes of young people who maraud through their vacation, fueled by excessive alcohol, brain-altering substances, hormones and money: Think daytime fraternity parties and bikinis on the beach.
This year, some municipalities found the crush of young people overwhelming. It began March 17 on the St. Patrick's Day holiday, an American celebration punctuated by faux-Irish drunkenness.
"The majority of folks are here to have a good time," Rodriguez said. "There's always a handful of folks who make poor choices."
Miami Beach spent more than $33,000 to publicize this message to visitors: "Come for vacation. Don’t go home on probation.”
Crime and debauchery generally means drunk and disorderly. If someone is arrested, they are brought to a detention center until they can see a judge, possibly after an overnight stay in jail, Rodriguez explained.
Police say they try to be patient as they wade through crowds of inebriated and barely clad young men and women, giving students an opportunity to voluntarily dispose of their illegally consumed alcohol. If they don't, officers enforce local ordinances against open containers and smoking marijuana on the beach, Gelber said.
For decades, beach towns in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Mexico have hosted students seeking a break from the relentless dull of winter and midterm examinations. Older adults who cluck their tongues at today’s unruly youth might watch the 1960 film, Where the Boys Are, in which four pale Midwesterners spend the week in Fort Lauderdale, where one is raped and later hit by a car as she stumbles down a busy roadway in despair.
"We are a city with amazing beaches, amazing restaurants and great cultural venues," Gelber said. "There are a million different ways to have a great time without doing something stupid or illegal."
Joshua Caraway, 19, from Atlanta, Georgia, made news in a different way. He was filmed cleaning up the beach. Police responded quickly and thanked him for his efforts.
Happening now: Meet Joshua from Atlanta (@boppay), he’s going through the Miami Beach crowds picking up trash. @MiamiBeachPD’s @PaulAcostaMBPD met with him to thank him for his efforts 👏🏼👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/3ypXQL7tHT— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) March 23, 2019