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Law enforcement focuses on holiday traffic, illegal fireworks, alcohol

By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

Sgt. Mike Pilato of the HBPD demonstrates the Intoximeter, a device that measures alcohol in a glass and on a person’s breath. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Different police departments have different policies when it comes to the Fourth of July.

If you’re planning to celebrate the holiday by launching some Roman candles or bottle rockets, don’t bring them to Anna Maria Island.
The Holmes Beach Police Department and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office are planning a crack down on illegal firecrackers.
“Every year we have a beach cleanup on July 5,” said HBPD Chief Bill Tokajer. “Last year I was appalled at how many of these fireworks we picked up. It took us hours.”
Tokajer said he will have extra patrols watching out for illegal fireworks, like bottle rockets, roman candles and mortars.
“We will be confiscating any illegal fireworks we come across, any fireworks that explode, launch or are projectiles,” he said. “These fireworks put our citizens and children in danger, and we are concerned.”
Sky lanterns also are illegal and will be confiscated, Tokajer said.
“They get caught in trees and are a hazard to marine life,” Tokajer said.
Tokajer also cautioned parents to monitor their children and “play it safe” when operating legal fireworks, such as sparklers, snappers and snakes.
But don’t worry, America’s 238th birthday will still go off with a bang; there will be plenty of opportunities to see professional fireworks launched over the holiday.
On July 3, catch the professional pyrotechnical show after nightfall at the BeacHhouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach. And fireworks will be launched July 4 on the beach at the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.
Tokajer said his team also will be writing tickets for motorists who park illegally.
HBPD officers wrote more than 200 parking citations, Memorial Day weekend.
When parking, Tokajer says people should remember to park in the direction of traffic flow, avoid parking on sidewalks and not block driveways.
Traffic and parking is the priority for Bradenton Beach police officers.
“We are expecting thick crowds and heavy traffic,” BBPD Chief Sam Speciale said. “We are asking people to drive safely and be on the look out for pedestrians.”
Speciale said he will have patrol and reserve officers safeguarding the beach, along with deputies provided by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, including deputies on horseback at Coquina Beach.
Speciale said the amount of people on the beach has swollen tenfold since he started working for the BBPD 27 years ago.
He cautioned parents to keep an eye on their children and to not let them wonder off in a crowd.
Over Memorial Day weekend, there were numerous reports of missing — and found — children at Coquina Beach, and more than 2,000 spaces there were filled by 10 a.m. People began parking anywhere they could find, Speciale said.
The chaos was compounded by the removal of some bollards that formerly directed traffic flow at the county park. The county also took out all of the “no parking” signs on the access roads and removed a gate on the east side of the road north of Leffis Key.
Because the “no parking” signs had been removed, the BBPD was unable to enforce parking at the park and the missing gate allowed people to circumnavigate the traffic backup on Gulf Drive and use the access road.
However, Charlie Bishop, of the Manatee County Property Management Department, said about 98 percent of the bollards have been replaced.
“We hope we will never have a debacle like that one again,” Speciale said.
In addition to fireworks and parking concerns, officers on the island will look out for illegal alcohol consumption and underage drinking.
“Alcohol is not allowed on the beach. If we see it, you are getting a ticket,” Tokajer said.
Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office-Anna Maria substation, said his deputies are prepared for one of the “busiest weekends we’ve ever had in the city.”
Davis said the Anna Maria deputies will be on duty throughout the weekend and additional deputies have been assigned to the city from mainland units.
“We’ll primarily be looking for alcohol and fireworks violations,” Davis said, “and illegal parking.”
He said the goal of deputies is to allow people to enjoy the holiday weekend, but ensure safety is maintained in the city.
“We want people to come to Anna Maria and have a good time,” Davis said. “But if the weather is good for the weekend, we’ll be dealing with an awful lot of people and there are bound to be some violations.”
Deputies will confiscate illegal fireworks and alcohol and citations may be issued, he said.
“Alcohol on the beach is a major problem on holidays and it’s illegal. We’re advising the public not to bring alcohol. Just come and enjoy the day.”
Another issue for deputies is illegally parked vehicles. Anna Maria requires all tires off the roadway on its streets, he said.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Davis advised visitors. “This is a family day and a celebration of our country. Just obey the rules and enjoy the professional fireworks show at the Sandbar,” he said.
      Islander reporter Rick Catlin contributed to this story.

2 Responses to Law enforcement focuses on holiday traffic, illegal fireworks, alcohol

  1. John S. says:

    Ok so no fireworks, no alcohol, no parking (or no tires on the street), no fun, no laughing, no people, no life. Sounds like a great place to visit!

  2. Cara says:

    Thank you to our law enforcement officers for working hard during the holidays to protect residents and visitors and preserve the qualities of the island that bring people to visit and live here – safe and clean beaches and a family-friendly atmosphere. Let’s not sacrifice what makes AMI special in the name of endless growth.

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