As students across the U.S. flock to warmer weather in Florida for spring break, authorities across the Sunshine State are preparing for the influx by announcing new rules, curfews and additional police.
During the pandemic in 2021 and 2022, students migrated to Florida to enjoy the relatively relaxed COVID-19 policies, cheap flights and hotels. These factors created a perfect storm and created a nightmare for law enforcement personnel in coastal towns along the state’s coast.
In 2023, the authorities come prepared to deal with possibly rowdy young adults.
In New Smyrna Beach, safety was top of mind for those who live and work there after last year’s chaotic spring break.
“I’ve been coming here for spring break for twenty years and this is the first time I’ve seen any serious problems,” Alice Muskey, owner of Treats on the Beach, told Fox 35.
Last year’s chaos forced city commissioners to scramble to implement a temporary curfew, which authorities lifted this year.
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“We can just tell the kids it’s time to go home. We don’t want you to gather in large groups like we saw last year,” Interim Police Chief Eric Feldman said.
In addition to the 11 p.m. curfew for teens 17 and under this spring break, residents and business owners can expect a stronger police presence.
Feldman announced Tuesday a command post will be stationed on Flagler Beach, equipped with cameras to monitor the shoreline and the boulevard. Neighboring business owners will have a direct line to report any concerns.
There will also be officers from different departments throughout Volusia County stationed on the beach and at every intersection in Flagler.
Hoping to avoid a repeat of last year, those who work and live in the area are grateful for these much-needed improvements.
“What they didn’t do last year was they didn’t get ahead of things because they didn’t know it was going to happen,” Seahorse Inn co-owner Terry Stephens shared with Fox 35. “They’re trying to get ahead of that, and I think that’s a good thing.”
In South Beach, Miami, officials warned visitors to expect increased traffic, road closures, special events and law enforcement crackdowns.
“We’re going to really let people know that if they come here, we want them to behave and we’re going to have police to make sure everyone is safe, our residents and our visitors.” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber announced.
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Portions of Ocean Drive will be closed to all vehicles, according to city spokeswoman Melissa Berthier.
In addition to the increased police presence, officials announced a number of rules for spring break, including: a $20 flat rate for city parking garages in the entertainment district, nightly fire inspections on weekends and double lifeguard staffing “as needed” on South Beach.
Similarly, the Okaloosa and Walton County Sheriff’s Offices have proactively announced spring break laws ahead of a busy month of March.
“No questions asked,” said the sergeant. Kyle Corbitt with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. “If you’re caught underage or breaking any other law, you’ll be charged.”
Panama City Beach leaders reminded the public Wednesday in a public service announcement that spring break laws have begun and will be “strictly enforced.”
“Our goal is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our residents and visitors,” said Panama City Police Chief JR Talamantez. “You can have fun here without engaging in illegal activities. Be responsible and act within the law. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation and understanding.”
Panama City’s spring break laws include banning the sale of alcohol after 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. In addition, the consumption of alcohol on the sandy beach is prohibited at any time for the entire month of March.
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Other city ordinances include:
- Loitering in parking lots or on the shoulder of the road is strictly prohibited.
- Alcohol consumption is not allowed in parking lots and in vehicles.
- Driving on the outside of vehicles is strictly prohibited, including sitting on the edge of window sills and standing through the sunroof.
- Loud music that disturbs the peace is prohibited. Music played more than 25 feet away is illegal.
- No climbing, jumping or flying from balconies is allowed.
- Metal shovels are not allowed on the sandy beach and digging holes deeper than two feet is prohibited. Any holes dug should be properly filled for everyone’s safety.
Panama City officials shared that police will be patrolling all beaches. Students caught violating any of the above spring break laws will serve at least one night in jail and possibly serve up to 60 days as well as pay a fine of up to $500.
In 2022, Panama City officials arrested 161 people over a spring weekend and that officers confiscated 75 guns amid confrontations with those people, WRIC reported.
“What we saw last weekend is absolutely unacceptable. Period,” said Police Chief JR Talamantez, who confirmed that several businesses closed their doors Friday as crowds gathered and disrupted the normal flow of business.
“These are the types of people we deal with,” he added. “Throwing beer bottles at police officers. Shootings just down the street. There were blue lights up and down the street as these shots were being fired. The blatant disregard for public safety that these individuals have will not be tolerated.”
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Panama City Mayor Mark Sheldon said the crime was not caused by the springs, but by criminals who came out from under the shroud of the crowd.
Peter Aitken of Fox News contributed to this report.