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Gasparilla parade problems push neighbors to adopt YouTube strategy

Neighborhoods along the Gasparilla parade route use YouTube to raise awareness of problems caused by crowds at the event.

Luis Santana | Times

Neighborhoods along the Gasparilla parade route use YouTube to raise awareness of problems caused by crowds at the event.

SOUTH TAMPA — Enough is enough, said the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, whose residents live smack dab in the middle of the Gasparilla parade route.

With help from other neighborhood associations along Bayshore, neighbors decided to document the annual mayhem themselves: fights, drunkenness, public urination, indecent exposure and sexual activity on residential streets.

Then, borrowing an idea from their kids, they posted the photos and videos on the Internet. The argument went viral.

"YouTube confirmed our concerns to everyone," said Jack Wyatt, the association's past president.

City officials and event organizers finally took the cotton balls out of their ears. Mayor Pam Iorio launched a public awareness campaign, "Responsibility is the Key."

Tampa police, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and residents visited schools, including the University of Tampa, warning there would be zero tolerance of underage drinking, open containers in neighborhoods and public urination. Parents of students received recorded phone messages citing consequences.

In addition, 50 more police officers were called to work the parade route, which was extended to end downtown at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, far from private homes.

And here's a big one: The number of portable toilets doubled, from 800 to 1,600.

So, did it make a difference?

Due to stepped up enforcement, arrests went from 125 in 2009 to 425 in 2010.

According to the Tampa Police Department, no students from targeted schools, where education sessions took place, were arrested.

"If we got nothing else done, that's a victory," Wyatt said. "Those kids weren't at risk for the first time in years."

And the weather — cold and rainy — helped, too.

"I'd say it was a combination of both, zero tolerance and weather," said Bayshore Boulevard homeowner Rodger King. "Less than half the usual crowd was there."

Amy Scherzer, Times staff writer

Gasparilla parade problems push neighbors to adopt YouTube strategy 12/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 30, 2010 3:31am]
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