Bay County Florida Sheriff discusses how they handle spring break events

In the aftermath of Black Spring Break, city officials and the police force have been studying how other cities have handled the event in the past.

Much like Biloxi, Panama City and Panama City Beach are hot tourist spots. Spring break was a yearly event in Panama City Beach that Sheriff Tommy Ford helped maintain. Until that changed. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was in 2015. We had a house party shooting, and it was actually a suspect from Mobile, Alabama, stood up in a middle of a house party and unloaded a firearm. 15 rounds, I think, into the house. Seven people were shot. It really looked like a war zone. People were laying in the street, there was CPR in progress.”

Since then, Panama City and Panama City Beach have worked alongside Bay County Sheriff’s Office and the state of Florida to keep crime that follows the event out of town.

The state legislator signed into law a ‘special event zone,’ which prevents parking along roadways. No alcohol is allowed on the beach during the month of March, and promoters may have to pay big money if the event gets out of control. “They can be held civilly liable for the public safety costs. In other words, every cop that’s out there on overtime, every fire, EMS, all of the government services that are out there, our county can sue those promoters that are putting this out on social media to recover that funding.”

Both cities still invite people to enjoy the beaches, but cite the same issues with drinking and firearms. This is what they want to keep away.

Sheriff Ford knows the City of Biloxi will figure this out. “I commend your sheriff and police chief. I know what they’re going through, and I know how hard they’re working to keep that under control. I know that having the communities’ support to maintain law and order is so meaningful in these situations.”

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