OCSO Prepares for 2024 Spring Break

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By Michelle Nicholson

There’s typically a range of emotions when you start talking about Spring Break rolling back around in Okaloosa County; those who welcome the influx and those who don’t. It’s important to remember our county caters primarily to families who travel here to enjoy the warmer temperatures, crystal clear temperatures and the slew of family friendly activities available.

The majority of high school and college students also show up to have a good time at some of the world’s most beautiful beaches while behaving in a safe, respectful and lawful manner.

And then, of course, there are the ones who see Spring Break as an opportunity to binge drink and get rowdy. Each year the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) reminds our Spring Break visitors with that type of partying on their mind that we have a zero tolerance for underage drinking. That’s because the goal is to promote safety for citizens and visitors using our public roadways, beaches, parks, neighborhoods and recreation areas. “We have special staffing with extra units assigned to Spring Break patrol seven days a week while it runs, essentially from March 2nd to April 6th” said Sheriff Eric Aden. “The priority for our deputies is public safety, which means making sure everyone follows the rules. We also want to emphasize that beachgoers who swim in the Gulf should always pay attention to our beach flag safety system.”

The 2023 Spring Break operation started the last week of February 2023 and ended at the end of April 2023. When OCSO enacted the operation and daily patrols, they addressed underage possession of alcohol, narcotics and miscellaneous calls for service. Over the course of the 52 days of the Spring Break operation, the members of the Beach Unit initiated 233 of the 409 total arrests.

There were the usual issues with large house parties, trespassing and fake I.D.s, but tragically a 17-year-old visitor from Kentucky lost his life in an alcohol-related fall from the balcony of a Destin condominium April 4th. “Our deputies are trained to recognize the indicators most common with impaired individuals,” said Sheriff Aden. “If we encounter an underage individual with alcohol, he or she will be issued a notice to appear with a court date before a judge. Repeat violations by an underage person would result in an individual’s physical arrest.”

OCSO deputies will be monitoring beach and vacation rentals for criminal activity, using proactive patrol methods to detect and apprehend anyone involved in criminal activity, and assisting Okaloosa County and Destin lifeguards with the prevention of drowning incidents.

The objectives behind the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Spring Break zero tolerance mission is to deter underage possession, thereby reducing the potential for property damage, injuries or deaths by impaired individuals. “We plan to conduct patrols with a minimum amount of intrusion and inconvenience to citizens and visitors,” added Sheriff Aden. “But we will be vigilant in our efforts to keep everyone safe because ultimately we want everyone to go home with only positive memories from their stay.”

Visits: 3