TAMPA — Gasparilla is a great tradition, city officials say. A wonderful event.
Authorities want you to enjoy it. Just do it responsibly, they requested Thursday.
"We want everyone to go home with a neck full of beads and not in handcuffs," police Chief Jane Castor said at the city's annual pre-parade news conference.
Castor explained that police plan to use some of the equipment purchased for the Republican National Convention at the Jan. 26 parade — including the 58 surveillance cameras posted through downtown.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida president has said his group opposes the cameras at all times, including during Gasparilla.
Castor said Thursday that police will use the cameras in the same manner it has in the past.
"And that's for the safety of our citizens," she said.
Police will watch the live feeds for fights, disturbances, lost children and people who need medical help, Castor said. They will not be used to look for people with open containers of alcohol, she told the Times.
Last year, the city saw markedly fewer arrests because police had the option of issuing civil citations for those caught with open containers of alcohol. The citations are fines, working much like speeding tickets.
Only 63 people were criminally charged.
But out of that number, 27 were underage drinkers. That is another point city officials made Thursday, with Hillsborough schools superintendant MaryEllen Elia at their side:
"We have a zero tolerance for underage drinking," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "There will be repercussions. We will not look the other way."
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.