Operation Dry Spring results in 2,070 arrests in Florida

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

The Florida Sheriffs Task Force, in conjunction with the Florida Sheriffs Association, has concluded a four-week operation aimed at protecting youth in Florida. Operation Dry Spring 2015 focused on preventing underage youth from purchasing and using alcohol, tobacco and various forms of synthetic drugs, according to a press release. The operation, conducted from March 16 through April 12, resulted in 2,070 arrests across 28 counties.

The operation monitored retail sales establishments for the sale of alcohol, tobacco, and synthetic drugs to underage persons. The operation also included proactive enforcement actions for both those persons providing drugs and alcohol to underage youths, as well as for the unlawful possession of such substances.

The operation produced:

* 2,070 Arrests

* Arrests of employees that sold  alcohol, tobacco or synthetic drugs to underage youth

* Arrests of underage youth who were in possession of illegal substances, fake IDs or drug paraphernalia

* Arrest for contributing to the delinquency of a minor

* 4,083 Business Checks

* Numbers of businesses deputies visited to ensure underage youth were not being sold alcohol, tobacco or synthetic drugs.

“Underage use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs has always been a point of concern for families as well as Florida’s Sheriffs,” said Pinellas County Sheriff and Task Force Chair Bob Gualtieri. “If Florida’s youth cannot make the right decisions, they will check out of their hotel and check into mine.”

Each year, more than 1,800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from unintentional, alcohol-related injuries. At the heart of Operation Dry Spring 2015 was the goal of preventing potential emergency-related incidents linked to alcohol and drug use. In 2011, nearly 190,000 individuals under the age of 21 visited an emergency room for injuries or conditions connected to underage drinking. In addition, the use of synthetic drugs such as bath salts and spice is rising, with more than 7,000 reported incidents in 2011, compared to some 3,000 in 2010.

“The Florida Sheriffs Task Force was able to conduct nearly 3,500 business checks to ensure the sale of alcohol, tobacco and synthetic drugs to underage youth  is not taking place at local businesses,” said FSA President, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar. “Cutting off the supply chain of these substances to our youth is extremely important in keeping them safe from the dangers of drugs and alcohol.”

The Florida Sheriffs Task Force pools resources from the 67 Sheriffs’ Offices to address specific areas of concern. The Florida Sheriffs Task Force also is the point of contact for statewide initiatives, including helping to staff the State Emergency Operations Center and coordinating Sheriffs' offices responses to storm-ravaged communities during hurricanes and other disasters.

In Okaloosa County:

During the four weeks of “Operation Dry Spring,” the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office issued 266 notices to appear for underage possession of alcohol, the second highest tally in the state.

However Spring Break in northwest Florida typically runs from approximately March 1 to April 25, a longer season than much of the rest of the state.

During that timeframe, the OCSO’s Spring Break Patrol responded to 949 calls for service and issued a total of 368 citations for underage possession of alcohol.

Deputies say the majority of the arrests took place in the Crystal Beach area, with other Destin beaches second, followed by Okaloosa Island.  All told, there were 282 notices to appear in Destin.

In addition, OCSO patrol deputies, School Resource officers, and beach deputies combined to check 45 businesses for underage alcohol and tobacco sales. The 45 business checks resulted in three arrests for underage alcohol sales and four arrests for underage tobacco sales.

Other charges made during Spring Break by the OCSO included seven arrests for possession of marijuana, three for possession of drug paraphernalia, one arrest for possession of fake identification, and one arrest for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Statewide, Operation Dry Spring participants conducted nearly 3,500 business checks to ensure the sale of alcohol, tobacco and synthetic drugs to underage youth isn’t taking place at local businesses, according to FSA President, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar. “Cutting off the supply chain of these substances to our youth is extremely important in keeping them safe from the dangers of drugs and alcohol.”