PCB Officials Learning from Spring Break - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

PCB Officials Learning from Spring Break

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The spring break party is beginning to wind down in Panama City Beach, and local officials are already grading the effectiveness of law enforcement during the season.

Spring Break might be good for business, but it does come with some heavy traffic, arrests, and the issue of underage drinking.

Local officials spent a year planning for the season, and that planning has been put to the test this month.

So far, a few leaders are pleased this season.

"I ride the beach every night. I don't see them [spring breakers] drinking on the right-of-ways over here. I don't see that anymore, anymore than the last time. We've got more police out. They're watching them. I think they're doing a better job," said Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas.

The college students have made their mark on the beach, and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

"We're very proactive this year. The officer presence is out there so our arrests are down," said Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman. 

Bay County's numbers are down compared to Walton County's.

On Monday, News 13 compared the numbers side by side for the week of March 11th through the 17th.

In Bay County, Panama City Beach Police with the help from 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.

"I think we're extremely hard on kids, like I said, we're proactive, sometimes we like to educate them because law enforcement ain't always about putting people in jail, sometimes it's education," said Whitman.

While Commissioner Thomas also said, "I don't know that anybody has shown me where our police aren't arresting people for breaking the law. I think they arrest people just like the others do."

The owner of Spinnaker Beach Club is literally in the middle of the partying and has noticed the effects of extra law enforcement.

"They've got in the back of their head that that uniform is there and you know, they process that, and I think that helps them probably behave better," said Sparky Sparkman.

The Tourist Development Council approved a special spring break use of tourist tax revenue, $100,000 equally between the Sheriff's Office and beach police.

Commissioner Thomas says that money has helped prevent the party from getting out of hand.