Spring Break Arrests Vary Between Bay and Walton Counties - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Spring Break Arrests Vary Between Bay and Walton Counties

Posted: Updated:

As spring break continues to invade the Panhandle, local law enforcement continues to promote "zero tolerance" for underage alcohol and the use of narcotics.

It's part of Florida's "Dry Spring" initiative.

Each coastal area has a different method to their enforcement.

In Bay and Walton Counties, partying is at its peak, but the difference in the number of arrests between the counties varies greatly; specifically in underage drinking.

The question is whether this is due to increased law enforcement presence or a spring break "friendly" environment.

"We're very proactive this year. Our officer presence is out there. Our arrests are down because they see us everywhere," said Panama City Police Chief Drew Whitman.

Since the end of February, he said they've seen 625 total arrests in 3 weeks. He called it a credit to their enforcement approach this spring break season.

"I'd rather be out there with a strong presence so we can prevent crime, rather than reacting to crime," said Whitman.

Over in Walton County, nearly the same amount of arrests were made in under 2 weeks time, with 616 in total. This is also with an approach Sheriff Mike Adkinson called, "proactive."

"We've tried to curb some behavior and as such, calls for service are actually down. We're seeing more people, I think that proactive approach is reducing the number of actual calls," said Adkinson.

News 13 decided to break the numbers down side by side for the week of March 11th through the 17th. Some have called it the "busiest week" of the spring break season.

In Bay County, Panama City Beach Police with the help the Bay County Sheriff's Office and State Officials arrested 265 spring breakers, 52 of those for underage alcohol.

In Walton County, the Sheriff's Office arrested 489 spring breakers, with 452 for underage alcohol.

Whitman said he isn't bothered by the lower numbers, saying not all rule breakers should be arrested.

"Sometimes we like to educate them because law enforcement isn't always about putting people in jail….If they do it again, then you put them in jail...but not everybody needs to go to jail," said Whitman.

Meanwhile, Walton County is setting a different tone.

"This community will certainly not accept that kind of behavior," said Adkinson.

For now, their "proactive" approaches continue through April, escorting out the disorderly behavior and potentially preventing it.