With college students on spring break starting to arrive in Key West, the Key West Police Department has announced its plans for dealing with the influx this year.
A large police presence on the beaches and in the downtown area is intended to deter most illegal activities during Spring Break 2005, said Capt. Bill McNeill, commander of the Bureau of Patrol Services. Duty schedules for Key West police officers have been adjusted to allow for extra officers directing vehicular and pedestrian traffic, walking the beat and patrolling on bicycles and motorcycles, especially at night, he said.
Police officers and sheriff’s deputies on foot and on bicycles also will patrol the beach during the day, McNeill said. Alcoholic beverages have always been prohibited on all beaches, he said, and police boats will be stationed in near shore waters to handle any problems there. This year, no parking will be allowed on the Bridle Path. McNeill said the department will close parts of Duval Street when crowding makes that necessary.
“As with other events that occur throughout the year, we plan and make special preparations to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors,” McNeill said. “We have made extra precautions this year because we believe that we will have a larger spring break for a number of reasons, including the number of hotel rooms that were taken out of the market due to the bad hurricane season, while we were fortunate and did not sustain any damage.”
Another powerful deterrent to student misbehavior is the reinstitution of the special Spring Break Court, last seen in 1998. Trial Court Administrator for the 16th Judicial Circuit Mary Vanden Brook explained that a student arrested for any of a variety of common spring break misdemeanor offenses, such as having a false identification, possession of alcohol by a minor, possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage in public, disorderly conduct and public urination, must appear the morning after he was arrested in a special court convening in Old City Hall at 8 a.m. sharp, seven days a week. Failure to appear will result in an arrest warrant, she added.
The student may be placed on probation for one day and pay fees adding up to $230 or perform community service for the day, working with city or county public works crews. Then his record is clear. Or he could plead “not guilty,” necessitating a notice to appear in Key West for trial at a later date, risking a possible criminal record. That can be avoided with option one or two, she said.
Vanden Brook also warned that Spring Break Court is a special, one-time option. A second arrest will be prosecuted as usual.
The second week of March is expected to be especially busy with both the University of Florida and Florida State University simultaneously on spring break.
“We’re hoping for the same spirit of cooperation from the students that we have had in past spring breaks,” Chief Bill Fortune said. He said the department’s spring break goal is to provide a safe, peaceful and lawful gathering while addressing the concerns of citizens in the community and their rights, all in a professional and courteous manner.