“There will be 100 percent arrests for adults in possession of alcohol under the age of 21 ... and they will be transported from there straight to the Okaloosa County Jail.”

As spring break 2018 quickly approaches, local law enforcement agencies and business people are gearing up for what they expect to be another busy year. 

Law enforcement officials are expecting the “official” spring break season to run from March 5 to April 14 this year. The second and last week of March will see the most college visitors, while most high school visitors are expected the first week of April.

In Destin, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said it will be business as usual for this year’s spring break.

Sgt. Jason Fulghum, head of spring break operations for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, said his department is “more than prepared” to handle the incoming influx of visitors and will enforce the law in similar ways as the past two years.

“We’re going to proceed like we did in 2016 and 2017,” Fulghum said. “There will be 100 percent arrests for adults in possession of alcohol under the age of 21, processed on the beach or at the booking command post that we’ll have set up, and they will be transported from there straight to the Okaloosa County Jail.”

Last year, OCSO deputies made 508 arrests during Spring Break, 484 of which were for underage alcohol possession. The Crystal Beach area of Destin saw the most arrests of college students, while the Back Porch and Restaurant Row area of Destin saw the most high school student arrests.

With an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 visitors expected by city officials this year, Fulghum said most of the visitors are law-abiding and don’t cause any problems for law enforcement.

“The vast number of people that we get coming here for spring break are not violating the law, and we enjoy the people coming here who do so lawfully,” Fulghum said. “Unfortunately, there’s always an element that comes that want to violate the law and we have to deal with that accordingly.”

The Sheriff’s Office is expected to have five overtime deputies each day in addition to their normal force, Fulghum said, every day from March 5 through April 6. The Okaloosa County Tourist Development council is footing the full $76,286 bill.

The city of Destin did not allot money in their 2018 budget for spring break law enforcement expenses.

In Walton County, Lieutenant Scott Hogeboom said his office is expecting another busy spring break.

“We’ve reached out to the property management companies and rental companies about their occupancy rates, and most of all of them are pretty high,” he said.

Like Okaloosa County, Walton County will also proceed with its “zero tolerance” policy this year, automatically arresting any minor who is found to be in possession of alcohol. Last year, the agency made 681 arrests for underage drinking.

Hogeboom said deputies will have a command post set up during the month of March in a parking lot near the Whale’s Tail restaurant in Miramar Beach, where they will process recently arrested people before taking them to the Walton County Jail in DeFuniak Springs. At the beginning of April, the Sheriff’s Office will move the command post to Seaside, when high school spring breakers are expected in the area.

“We know the Atlanta high schools are out at that time, so we’ll be down there then,” he said.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is also implementing a brand new task force this year that will deal specifically with house parties, after what Hogeboom said was a particularly bad year for house parties in 2017. The task force will consist of a group of deputies whose focus will be on monitoring neighborhoods and addressing any house parties that may get out of hand.

“We are reaching out to the associations and rental companies again to makes sure they know who they’re renting to,” Hogeboom said. “And just like always, if they have any issues, we advise them to call us.”

WCSO has set aside an additional $35,000 for overtime expenses. They expect to have up to 14 deputies receiving overtime pay. 

Overall, Hogeboom said he hoped people would come down to visit the beach and enjoy their vacation lawfully.

“We hope everybody comes down and is safe and behaves while they’re down here and has a good spring break,” he said.