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Thursday, Jul 30, 2015

Police stress 'zero-tolerance' measures ahead of Gasparilla invasion

Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Invasions of unruly pirates typically are drunken affairs with debauchery lurking behind every hedge. That's unless the invasion takes place in Tampa, which it will this coming weekend.

Here, the city's police force is bound and determined to keep in check the marauding pirates and more importantly, those who come to party with them.

This year, like the past two years, police are enforcing a zero-tolerance policy to counteract the tendency for such invasions to get out of hand. In the past, revelers have urinated, gotten sick, passed out or otherwise littered the dainty lawns of South Tampa near Bayshore Boulevard. In 2009, residents had enough.

They asked the city to start enforcing the laws against such boorish behavior and in 2010 crackdowns were the result.

Monday, police fired what has become the annual shot across the bow of the U.S.S. Imbiber, saying they will not tolerate drunken shenanigans at Saturday's parade and pirate invasion.

Underage drinkers and parade-goers toting open containers of alcoholic beverages in zones where they are not allowed will be given no quarter.

But there's a wrinkle this year. Open container violators won't be hauled off to jail, booked and their mug shots taken and posted for all to see. Rather, they will be handed citations that will cost them $75 for the first offense, $150 for the second offense, $300 for the third offense and $450 for the fourth offense.

Underage drinkers, on the other hand, will be taken into custody, said police Chief Jane Castor. But, by the weekend, those under 21 years of age should know about the crackdown.

Presentations are being made at all the high schools and universities in the area as well as MacDill Air Force Base. Recorded messages are being telephoned to the homes of every high school student in Tampa, warning them – and their parents – of the dangers of demon rum on pirate invasion day.

"We want to see everyone wearing a neck-full of beads and not a pair of handcuffs," the chief said at a news conference on Monday.

The zero tolerance mantra is in its third year and judging by the numbers of arrests, seems to be working.

In 2010, police arrested 367 besotted souls on Gasparilla Day and last year, just 277 were shackled, Castor said.

"Our goal this year," she said, "is to have no arrests."

There is a designated "wet zone" along the parade route, but drinking out of that zone can bring trouble.

Police say that, depending on the weather, as many as 500,000 people may swarm, over Bayshore Boulevard and downtown on Saturday. And they mostly are ready to party.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said that over the next week and a half, Gasparilla events will dump an anticipated $42 million into the local economy.

"We love Gasparilla," Buckhorn said, but police do have to "curtail the foolishness that takes place."

kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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