Of the 161 people arrested in Bay County, Florida over the weekend, 78 were from Alabama. One Alabamian was shot Sunday morning in Panama City Beach.
Spring Breakers from Miami to the Florida panhandle have drawn national attention to the state as police battle rowdy crowds, vandalism and, in some instances, violence.
Miami Beach declared a State of Emergency and issued a curfew Thursday from midnight to 6 a.m. in response to a series of incidents.
Gunfire at Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach Police saw multiple shootings over the weekend. One took place at around 4 p.m. Sunday near the popular beachfront restaurant, Pineapple Willy’s.
According to Police Chief Eusebio Talamantez, approximately 87 law enforcement officers from multiple agencies responded. They encountered several armed individuals, one of whom he claimed was carrying an AR-15.
During this incident, a 21-year-old from Alabama was shot in the foot. Talamantez said the victim is suffering from “non-life-threatening injuries” and is being taken care of at a local hospital.
Talamantez told AP News Monday that there was no curfew at the time, but “nothing is off the table.”
“This is an event we’ve been planning for and gathering intelligence on for two or three weeks, and I think that’s been a success,” said Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford in a press conference on Monday.
According to Ford, law enforcement officers seized 75 guns over the weekend, which he said were illegally possessed.
What about the beaches in Alabama?
Lt. Jason Woodruff of Gulf Shores Police Department said his department hasn’t been experiencing the same issues.
“We’re several weeks into our Spring Break season now,” Woodruff said. “It has certainly been busy, but we haven’t experienced anything outside the norm.”
Woodruff said Gulf Shores instituted a handful of policies in 2016 to combat rowdy Spring Breakers, including a complete alcohol ban during the spring break season and an increase in the number of officers on patrol.
This year, the alcohol ban runs through Monday, April 18. However, Woodruff said beachgoers of the legal drinking age should be more concerned about drawing attention to themselves, gathering in large and disruptive groups and bringing glass on the beach.
“The person that is not drawing attention to themselves or formed up in large groups, they’re going to have very few problems,” said Woodruff. “...The thing that the ban was put into place to effect were those large, like really large, gatherings of underage drinkers.”
Overall, Woodruff said their strategy during Spring Break is to increase personnel. He said his department receives more assistance from the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office than they do at other times of the year.
“[Gulf Shores] is just more of a family-type setting here than the bigger venues for people,” Woodruff said. “It’s more family-oriented, and, frankly, it is our goal to keep it that way.”
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