All this month and for part of April, local law enforcement officers have their hands especially full patrolling the huge Spring Break crowd. It takes multiple agencies and creativity to make sure everyone stays safe. With thousands of college students in a fairly small area, things can get pretty rowdy.
But from temporary, make-shift jail cells on Thomas Drive, to multiple daily fly-over’s, our local law enforcement is prepared for it.
The Bay County Sheriff's Office helicopter usually only takes off when it's called out to assist in searches or car chases. But during Spring Break, it takes off at least three times every day. The chopper is scheduled to go up at 3, 5 and 7 p.m.
"Those are the main times that people are on the beach and so the helicopter is highly visible at that time. It also lets people on the beach know that we're watching, that we're trying to keep a lid on things and trying to keep it under control," said a Pilot for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Ken Smiley.
Sgt. Smiley has been patrolling Spring Break as a pilot since 2006.
"During spring break we have large crowds out on the beach. It helps with crowd control and spotting trouble spots, seeing where road blockages may be," said Sgt. Smiley.
With a birds-eye view of the Gulf, the chopper crew can also easily spot distressed swimmers and boaters.
"Just yesterday we had a jet skier that was stranded offshore and we notified the Beach Police Department. They were able to get assistance to him," said Sgt. Smiley.
During Spring Break, the helicopter and crew stays at their temporary post off Thomas Drive until about 1:00 a.m. every day in case their assistance is needed.