Bay County Commission is sending a message. It wants to tone down Spring Break in Panama City Beach.
"People just can't do what they've been doing [during Spring Break] right in our face, and say we don't have anything to say about it," Commissioner George Gainer said. "What we're doing now, we're going to have to turn it around."
Commissioners met with everyone from Panama City Beach leaders to business owners and residents in a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.
They agreed to support Sheriff Frank McKeithen's recommendations aimed at deterring undesirable behavior and unwelcome guests. They include initiatives like banning alcohol on the beach, stopping the sale of alcohol after 2:00 a.m. and enforcing capacity limits, all three only during college Spring Break.
"We are a beer bottle away from a riot," the Sheriff said, quoting a friend.
The Sheriff said his deputies and communication staff, in the Beach Precinct, put in 23,438 man-hours during Spring Break this year, nearly 16,000 more hours than normal. Within that time, deputies made 415 arrests plus an additional 987 processed through the mobile jail.
Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman added statistics within city limits are similar for Spring Break.
Commissioners said they have some homework to do and will work with Panama City Beach Council Members before putting any recommendations into law.
"We need to follow the same rules they are," Commissioner Mike Thomas said. "We don't need the Beach Police and the County Sheriff's Department trying to figure out where they can and can't police so if our rules are all the same, and we're both pulling in the same direction, then it's easier for them and I think makes us look better."
The Panama City Beach City Council is meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the potential changes it would like to make within city limits.