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Law enforcement tackles July 4 challenges

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

People gather near 72nd Street and Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach July 4 after dark to watch a fireworks display and set off some rockets and firecrackers. Holmes Beach police confiscated a significant quantity of fireworks from among the crowd. Islander Courtesy Photo

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.

2 Responses to Law enforcement tackles July 4 challenges

  1. Robert Reynolds says:

    We thanks all you tourists for coming here, but next time don’t
    drive your car. We don’t have ample parking places and after
    over 20 years we still can’t figure out how to accommodate you
    without writing you a ticket. We however do enjoy you spending
    your money here at the various rental units, our Publix store,
    our various bars and restaurants. I guess we were wrong in
    allowing too much building, but after all more buildings are
    more tax dollars for us. You see, it isn’t about the tourism
    we want, it’s about the money. Have someone drop you off next
    time and enjoy the beach. Now don’t blame the police, they
    are just acting on orders. We’ll figure it out someday.

    • RR says:

      Mr. Reynolds. If you do not break the law…. And abide by the parking signs and restrictions…. I’m sure that you won’t receive a ticket. Pretty simple. Let’s see, too many tourists == equals not enough places for tourists to park. Well I see a common denominator here. Also, your idea regarding not bringing your car…. Brilliant. Take a bus… Take a taxi. Or, if you have issue with not being able to park your car when it’s busy… Come earlier. But I’m sure that would not work…. May take some planning ahead on your part…. It’s obvious that you are aware that it will be crowded (“been coming for 20 years”)…. I have to plan my life around the traffic and congestion…. Why shouldn’t you? Yes, it is true, local businesses do benefit from your money. I am happy to see my local community members doing well. However, the local resident that does not own a business… Like myself, does not directly benefit from your money… And we are the much larger majority. The overcrowding, traffic, and general loss of quality of life are the issues we citizens have. It seems we cannot stop this large and powerful wheel of progress, fueled by greed and power, but I can at least defend my community by my words here. Please do not patronize the local citizens and natives of Anna Maria island with your facetious comments. They are insulting.

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