ROSEMARY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — After last year’s record-breaking spring break season, Walton County Sheriff’s Office decided to take a different approach to spring break.
“In years past, we’ve we show up, turn the lights, blue lights on, and everybody runs, which, you know, causes a lot of property damage,” Walton County Sheriff’s Office Spring Break Operations Commander John Cheek said. ”People run up the beach, beach accessories, and this kind of thing. So we’re trying to control that to some degree.”
This year more than 30 deputies were assigned to monitor the beaches along 30-A, where large crowds of teens have been gathering at night.
Authorities are utilizing social media data to see where groups are forming.
“Every night this week…we have quite a few folks that are gathering on the beach,” Cheek said. “They typically tend to go to certain locations and kind of cluster at different points. And we know where those are and that’s where we go. We just adjust based on where they’re going.”
Instead of breaking up these gatherings, deputies are joining them.
“We haven’t even had plainclothes individuals that are sort of infiltrating these groups to kind of keep an eye on stuff up close,” Cheek said. “So and they, you know, relay that information back to us and we take appropriate action when it’s necessary.”
Large groups formed Wednesday night at both Inlet Beach and Dogwood Beach.
Spring breaker Jet Harper said the teens believe deputies have been reasonable, even tossing a football with them.
“They’ve been really nice,” Harper said. “But if they see alcohol, they just pour it out. And if you have a vape they take it. You know, everyone’s having a good time.”
Residents also seem pleased with this new approach.
“I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from the homeowners that live here year-round saying that this year’s been a lot better than years and years past.” Cheek said.
And while there have been several disturbances, Cheek says they’ve been isolated.
Cheek said the Sheriff’s Office is pleased with the results they have seen from their new approach.