Last year, officials arrested more than 1,000 individuals who were here for spring break, most on charges of underage possession of alcohol. We're hoping that number is lower this year.

Whether we are ready for it or not, this week marks the first big week of what has come to be known as capital letter Spring Break.

College and high school students from across the Southeast head to local beaches to celebrate a week off from school. They come for the sunshine, the sand, the Gulf of Mexico and the parties. For many teens and young adults, it's a rite of passage that may or may not include underage drinking.

For law enforcement officials, it's peak season for enforcement and arrests. It seems these young visitors cause more problems in a few short weeks than other visitors do for the rest of the year. In response, local agencies beef up their budgets and staffing to keep local beaches safe and beachgoers on the right side of the law.

For locals, it's a mix of entertaining and disturbing. Who doesn't remember what it's like to be young and disconnected? To know on some level that your actions might have consequences but to believe that somehow you will slide by unscathed? Many locals, in fact, remember spending their spring breaks on our beaches, or other very similar ones, doing exactly what these young people are doing today.

But over the years, the activities of these young visitors have too often crossed the line from lively to dangerous. And authorities have reacted accordingly, enforcing "zero-tolerance" policies that send a strong message to would-be offenders.

As a result, many of our young visitors will go home with a black mark on their records. They will pose for mugshots that will follow them around for months, if not years. Breaking the law may seem funny at the time, but when you're applying for a job years down the road, it's not nearly as amusing.

Last year, officials arrested more than 1,000 individuals who were here for spring break, most on charges of underage possession of alcohol. We're hoping that number is lower this year, that visitors enjoy our beautiful beaches safely and legally.