A $3 bottle of beer could cost you $50 under the city’s proposed penalties for violations of park rules.
“The civil citation would basically be a last resort,” said City Manager Maryann Ustick.
During their Nov. 6 meeting, city leaders looked at proposed language that would authorize the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office to issue civil citations for rules violations in city parks, which include Norriego Point.
In the past, the point has been referred to as the “Wild, Wild West,” due to park goers running roughshod and sliding down the dunes among other undesirable activities.
“If you have people being disruptive and the city staff can’t solve the problem, this allows us to call in the sheriff’s department,” Councilman Tuffy Dixon said, adding that he wouldn’t expect to see more than one or two citations issued a year. “They (deputies) are not going to be out there searching people out.”
Currently, the city’s parks and recreation department, which staffed Norriego Point during holidays and busy weekends, can only ask for voluntary compliance. Educational materials and brochures were given to folks to curb problems the city was having with park attendees leaving glass bottles, starting fires, camping, and trampling on the dunes.
In order for law enforcement officers to issues fines to violators in city parks, a “penalty” section and “civil infraction” subsection were added to the proposed ordinance.
Capt. Ted Pecot, from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, told The Log that implementing civil citation authority in Destin was just a step in bringing the city in line with what the county is already doing. While deputies will respond when needed, Pecot said that the sheriff’s office wouldn’t need to increase manpower to accommodate.
“It’s just a way to get their attention if the other methods (warnings/education) don’t work,” he said.
Looking at the provided documents, fines for violations could range from $50 for a first violation, depending on the offense, to $500 for a third violation. All fines would be collected through the Okaloosa County Clerk of Courts, which wouldn’t cost the city any money.
For each citation issued, there is a $2 law enforcement fee, $3 in court costs, a 10 percent fee to the clerk of courts and a $10 filing fee. Based on a $50 citation, the city would collect a total of $30.50. For a $100 citation, the city would collect $75.50.
Citations could be issued for littering, use of glass bottles, overnight camping, boating violations, the use of fireworks and explosives and having your pet on the beach just to name a few examples. Other examples of violations include bicycle violations (leaving bicycle on ground where someone could trip), recreational activities violations (swimming between sunset and sunrise), hours of use violations, and for violating the rules for holding a special event.
While the ordinance would allow deputies to ticket scofflaws, education would still be the first line of defense for the city.
“Only if that fails do we call the sheriff’s department,” Ustick said.
After unanimously approving the draft ordinance, the proposed changes will go to first reading, which is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 3.