Anna Maria Island on July 4 was a tale of challenges, with each island city having its share of law enforcement issues to varying degrees.
Holmes Beach police appeared to have the busiest time the evening of July 4, as large quantities of illegal fireworks and alcohol were confiscated by officers.
Police Chief Bill Tojaker had all officers on duty that evening and they were kept pretty busy, he said.
“We issued 91 parking tickets, six citations for illegal alcohol, four traffic tickets and responded to 11 complaints of fireworks,” he said. “Officers confiscated a lot of illegal fireworks but, on the whole, the crowd was fairly well-behaved,” Tojaker said.
“There were definitely a lot of people on the island that evening,” he said, and upwards of 20,000 people on the beach would not be a stretch.
Officers had more than just illegal fireworks and alcohol on the beach to deal with, Tojaker observed.
“We also had seven arrests for various charges, one traffic arrest, two for battery, two for larceny, one for an outstanding warrant and one arrest for narcotics. We were busy, but we had no major incidents and no reports of injuries as in past years. The evening went very well.”
Tojaker said he thought the electronic signs posted on Manatee Avenue as people entered the city warning them that illegal fireworks and alcohol on the beach are violations probably reduced the number of incidents.
“The signs definitely helped,” he said.
In Bradenton Beach, Police Chief Sam Speciale said his officers and Manatee County officials cooperated at Coquina Beach to handle traffic and parking.
“July 4 was nothing like Memorial Day at Coquina Beach. We had the bollards and traffic flow re-arranged, and traffic was under control. For the most part, motorists and visitors were very well-behaved.”
Speciale said officers kept motorists at Coquina Beach from “cruising up and down the park.”
Officers helped direct motorists to available parking spaces to ensure no roads were blocked by illegally parked vehicles.
The majority of law enforcement incidents involved illegal alcohol on the beach and confiscation of fireworks, he said.
There was one burglary reported in which two suspects stole a bag on the beach and used a key they found to enter a rental unit, Speciale said.
Those suspects were caught and arrested.
“All in all, a very busy weekend, but we got through it without any major incidents. My hat’s off to the officers and deputies who did all the hard work.”
While Bradenton Beach dealt with parking issues and Holmes Beach confiscated large amounts of fireworks, Anna Maria appeared fairly quiet, according to Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office-Anna Maria substation. “It was fantastic cooperation from the public,” Davis said. “We only had one alcohol violation, but we did issue 73 parking tickets. We only had a handful of fireworks confiscated. I think the notification signs posted as motorists entered the city really helped.”
Davis had all regular Anna Maria patrol deputies on duty, as well as some extra deputies from the mainland. Beach patrols were out in force, he said, and no one caused problems when their illegal fireworks were confiscated or people were told to halt activities.
“People were very polite, I was told. Everyone appeared to have a good time, nobody got injured and we were able to concentrate on duties other than just confiscation of fireworks and alcohol. I commend the public cooperation.”
Davis said one arrest was made at Bayfront Park.
A homeless man who had been living in the bushes was arrested for public exposure, but no other arrests were reported.
“Great weekend for everyone,” Davis concluded.