Island law enforcement reports 4th of July crowds, few crimes

Visitors jampacked Anna Maria Island for a parade, a beach day and fireworks on the Fourth of July — a sunny day that hit 90 degrees with a scattered rain showers before sunset.

And law enforcement and emergency responders say people behaved well — for the most part.

An Anna Maria man was arrested for an altercation with a teenager.

People fought over parking spaces in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach police wrote numerous parking tickets.

While the licensed fireworks in Anna Maria fizzled, fireworks went off in Holmes Beach and on the Cortez waterfront — although not all were legal.

Manatee County sheriff’s deputies responded to a fireworks complaint in the 200 block of Gladiolus Street in Anna Maria, but there were no reports of seized fireworks, according to MCSO spokesman Randy Warren.

Similarly, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach police reported no seizures.

HBPD Chief Bill Tokajer vowed ahead of the Fourth that fireworks would be confiscated or people would be fined or charged for the contraband.

Tokajer acknowledged there were illegal fireworks on the beach, but none were confiscated.

“With it being wall-to-wall people on the beach, there was no way to get to them,” he added.

Tokajer also said unlike years past, there were no large gatherings of young people at the beach.

“I believe the word is getting out that Holmes Beach is family oriented,” he added.

Bradenton Beach police received no firework complaints, according to Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz.

Unless people complain or show “blatant” disregard for the laws, he said, “there’s going to be so many on the Fourth, it’s impossible to stop them all.”

A person setting of illegal fireworks on Coquina Beach, cooperated with police, Diaz said.

Missing persons became an issue on the crowded Coquina and Cortez beaches for a short time, however, they were found within minutes, Diaz said.

Due to the influx of visitors at midday, Bradenton Beach police reported parking was at a premium and police ticketed some 15 scofflaws.

Diaz said people were fighting over parking spaces and causing a public safety issues for others.

“Everybody knows it’s free and more and more people are coming to the island — and they’re bringing their grills,” he added.

Rain came in at about 7 p.m. “and people rushed off the island,” Diaz said.

Tokajer reported his officers wrote “a lot” parking tickets.

Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Joe Westerman said his lifeguards reported no major incidents at Coquina and Manatee Public beaches, the two county-managed beaches.

Westerman heads the rescue division, overseeing 16 full-time and two part-time lifeguards.

He said lifeguards estimate the number of beachgoers July 4 at Coquina and Manatee public beaches but, at press time the tally wasn’t available. In 2017, Westerman said lifeguards at Coquina estimated 14,500 beachgoers, while Manatee beach saw 7,500 people.

Tokajer estimated crowds in Holmes Beach swelled to 40,000.

MCSO made the city’s only July 4 arrest at the Rod & Reel Pier, where an off-duty employee allegedly slapped a 15-year-old male, according to Sgt. Mike Jones, who heads the MCSO-Anna Maria substation.

Jones said people in Anna Maria need to be reminded drinking alcohol on the beach is illegal.

“People are drinking out there and don’t know it’s a violation,” he added.

Manatee County’s marine unit reported “a lot of safety warnings,” no issues and no arrests on the water surrounding Anna Maria Island.

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