DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has made 76 underage possession arrests in the first eight days of the spring break season.
OCSO Sgt. Kyle Corbitt with the Marine Division said most of the arrests are from Auburn University students and locals. Ages range from 18-20.
Okaloosa Co. has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to spring break. Deputies on patrol both on land and in the water focus on underage possession of alcohol and narcotics.
“We do the zero-tolerance because places like Panama City Beach. They basically banned alcohol so we’ve begun this so we don’t have an incident like what happened in Panama City Beach several years ago,” said Sgt. Corbitt. “We don’t want any sexual battery on the beach, or fights involving guns and knives and stuff like that.”
Sgt. Corbitt said extra deputies are brought in for 12 hours shifts. Deputies start the day trying to prevent underage drinking before the nighttime comes around with its own set of potential problems.
“During the nighttime hours, a lot of these Spring Breakers that have been out on the beach drinking all day, and a lot of them get intoxicated. That’s a big reason why we do what we do because nighttime is whenever some people have a little too much to drink and end up in situations, you know whether it be, sexual batteries, criminal mischief, where they go down to the beach and destroy like these beach vendor boxes and just cause a lot of havoc,” said Sgt. Corbitt. “We’ve seen them leave trash all over the place and roam around the neighborhoods, breaking into cars or stuff like that. And that’s again why our zero-tolerance policy has been working to prevent these kinds of incidents.”
When young adults are arrested, they are not taken to jail. OCSO deputies issue notices to appear. Those charged with the crimes can take either appear for the court date, or settle the ticket with the State Attorney. There are options for the tickets to be taken off someone’s permanent record in certain cases.
“We’re not trying to ruin their fun. We’re not trying to ruin their spring break. With these notices to appear, you know this fine amount that they have to pay is basically getting rid of their beer money for the week,” said Sgt. Corbitt. “We’re not trying to ruin their fun. We’re just trying to prevent any major incidents from happening and I think we have accomplished that pretty well here over the past few years.”
For condo and short-term rentals in the area, Sheriff Eric Aden sent letters to resorts to inform all guests of the zero-tolerance policy and how to safely navigate spring break.
“All the hotels, all the condos post that and they put it in their rental agreements and stuff with these Spring Breakers,” said Sg.t Corbitt. “Basically this letter says obviously we want you guys to have fun, come in town, have a good time, enjoy our beautiful weather, beautiful water and obviously the beautiful county that we have, but if you are committing a crime, especially during spring break, you’re going to get caught.”
OCSO said the first few weeks have been Auburn and Georgia schools. Starting March 13, bigger schools such as LSU and Florida universities will start to pack the local beaches.
Sgt. Corbitt said the majority of crowds are seen in the Destin area near Crystal Beach. Students and families coming to the beach need to know there is a right way to ‘spring break’.
“I wrote a ticket to a 13-year-old last year. These kids just need to realize that if they’re out in public committing these crimes, know that you’re going to get charged,” said Sgt. Corbitt. “We’re seeing all kinds of stuff, how they’re trying to hide the alcohol, whether it being tumblers and red solo cups, suntan lotion, the fake little Coke Koozies that they put around to make it look like coke. They’re trying everything they can to try to beat the system. But our guys are well versed at handling these kinds of calls so you’re going to get caught.”