Florida officials fight back against rowdy spring breakers
Panama City Beach, Fla. – Rowdy spring break crowds have forced curfews and led some establishments to close their doors from Miami Beach to Florida’s Panhandle.
Law enforcement officials in Bay County, Florida, said Sunday that they won’t tolerate the bad behavior from spring breakers after a 21-year-old from Alabama was shot in the foot Sunday during a shooting in Panama City Beach.
“The crowd that has been here this weekend, there are no words that can describe the way they have behaved themselves, conducted themselves and the amount of laws they have broken,” Panama City Beach police Chief J.R. Talamantez said during a news conference on Sunday afternoon. “We are doing the best to manage this situation.”
Police received word that the large crowd was out of control just before the shooting happened on Sunday afternoon. Three people were detained and officials said they could be charged with attempted murder.
Some 50 to 60 guns have been confiscated from spring breakers, according to Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford.
Some local nightclubs volunteered to close their doors on Sunday night, Panama City police Chief Mark Smith said.
“They are not catering to the spring break crowd,” Smith said. “It just can’t be tolerated.”
In South Florida, raucous crowds, public drinking and growing violence associated with the city’s world-famous South Beach neighborhood led officials to impose a midnight curfew over the weekend. The action followed shootings that injured five people on South Beach last week.
The 10-block stretch of Ocean Drive known for art deco hotels, restaurants and bars lies between areas that cater to more affluent tourists, as well as locals. Many longtime residents have learned to treat spring break like a hurricane: Stay inside and hunker down until it’s over.
When asked about a possible curfew in Panama City Beach, Talamantez said “nothing is off the table.” He said officials are evaluating the situation.
“I know the citizens are frustrated. Trust me, we are frustrated too,” Talamantez said. “The harsh reality is we cannot control who comes to town. But what we can control is what happens to you if you commit a crime in this town. We will hold you accountable.”