Sheriff Recommends Change For Spring Break - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Sheriff Recommends Change For Spring Break

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Each year, thousands of people flock to Panama City Beach during spring break, leaving the beach crowded and law enforcement busy.

Now that the majority of spring break is over, multiple law enforcement agencies are reflecting on what they can do to control spring break in the future.

"Shootings, robberies, sex offenses that we see year after year, certainly not getting any better," said Major Tommy Ford, Bay County Sheriffs Office. "We have to as a community engage this discussion and I think that the sheriff feels that the recommendations are a good starting point."

In a letter written to the Panama City Beach City Manager, Sheriff Frank McKeithen outlines the steps he feels like should be taken to control spring break.

Those recommendations are as follows:

  1. Allow no alcoholic beverages on the beaches(sand) or parking lots, during spring break, as has already been implemented in many community such as Daytona Beach and Ft. Lauderdale.

  2. Any person possessing alcoholic beverages must have a valid I. D. On their person.

  3. During college spring break, require all bars, clubs and other establishments located on Panama City Beach and the unincorporated area west of Hathaway Bridge to stop serving alcoholic beverages at least by 2am and possibly even earlier.

  4. Aggressively enforce capacity limits and fire safety ordinances during spring break at condos, hotels, and clubs.

  5. Use TDC advertising money currently spent on college spring break to advertise what you can't do here and all new laws and ordinances.


Ford says the sheriff's office has done research on other cities that have had similar issues with spring break and overcome them. These recommendations are based off of that research. 

"Unfortunately in these places they had some big watershed event that forced them to make some of those changes," he said. "I think in Bay County we are better than that and we should masker changes before it happens."

A lot of resources are used to control the crowds on the beach. The Panama City Beach Police Department alone from March 1st through April 9th responded to 11, 457 calls for service and made 973 arrests. 

431 calls were made to Club La Vela resulting in 74 arrests. 

290 calls at Walmart with 75 arrests.

276 calls at Spinnaker with 53 arrests.

and 205 calls at the Holiday Inn with 32 arrests. 

Chief Whitman is also looking to draft his own recommendations to the city. He is in process of talking to businesses and locals in hopes to accommodate changes that would work for everyone.

"We need to do some changes I don't know if it needs to be drastic," he said.  "So im trying to get out talk to business people that I know, people from the community to see what their concerns are and how we can fix this together... I'm trying to find something that works for everyone because I got to get the buy in from the community and I definitely got to get the buy in from the businesses so this will work."

Whitman mentioned an example of some of the small steps they are working on are lessening the advertisements for free beer and 24 hour partying and working with establishments to control larges crowds, like at concerts. 

City and County officials are expected to meet next week to discuss the recommendations.

Law Enforcement numbers for Spring Break:

Bay County Sheriff's Office (3/1-4/9)
5300 Calls for Service
345 Arrests
827 Arrests processed at mobile booking

Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) Made 957  arrests during the three weeks they provided mutual aid to the city.

Florida Highway Patrol (During the 4 weeks they provided mutual aid)
Issues 4733 tickets 
Made 28 DUI arrests
59 Drug Arrests
Worked 52 Crashes
Cited 253 Open Containers