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What really happens during spring break 2015
This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 27, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Welcome to 'Hannity.' Every year, hundreds of thousands of college students all across America head out to a sunny destination for spring break. Now, it's supposed to be time off from their studies, a little fun in the sun. But in reality, it's a parent's worst nightmare.
Tonight, in a 'Hannity' special, 'Spring Break Exposed,' we're going to show you what really goes on.
AINSLEY EARHARDT, CO-HOST, 'FOX & FRIENDS FIRST': We are back, Panama City Beach! All these spring breakers are here, and we're here to expose what they're doing!
What have y'all seen at spring break this year?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wild stuff!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen people smoking. I've seen people doing plenty of stuff on the beach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen some sexual intercourse on the beach.
EARHARDT: On the beach?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the beach.
EARHARDT: Well, did you stop it? Did you go and help the girl?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, she was clearly enjoying it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have a lot of rides out here. They get -- people come down, they have a bunch of people with them, they just go crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw girl snort cocaine off a guy's butt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having a good time, we're drinking, getting turned up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, baby!
EARHARDT: When I was at spring break, there was underage drinking and alcohol. But I hear it's gotten a lot worse. I hear there are, like, drugs and guns?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I don't know nothing about that.
EARHARDT: All right, come here. What is this? He's smoking marijuana.
What have you seen at spring break?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have we not seen at spring break?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm drunk. It's awesome! Like, I've been talking to girls. I made out with six girls!
EARHARDT: What time did you start drinking today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, 11:00, when I got up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's spring break in Panama! (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't matter how you do it. As long as you do it, you're good!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my sister's trophy. She told me to bring it down here for spring break and give it away to the girl with the biggest boobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I seen girls kiss girls. I've seen guys kissing guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bigger the beat, the more you got to do. The bigger the beat, the more you got to do!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen people having sex on the beach in front of thousands of people!
EARHARDT: What'd the crowd do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crowd (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't find a port-a-potty.
EARHARDT: You went to the bathroom on the beach?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not the beach. I'm classy. But it was close. It was a trash can.
EARHARDT: (INAUDIBLE) message for Sean Hannity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most cutest girl I ever met in my life!
EARHARDT: I'm too old for you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, don't worry. Hey, for love, we don't have no age.
EARHARDT: Let me ask you something. Are your parents OK with you being here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) my parents!
HANNITY: 'F' my parents -- some of the madness that goes on during spring break. For the second year in a row, our own Ainsley Earhardt went down to Panama City Beach, Florida, to expose what's really going on when you send your kids away for their college vacation and college spring break.
Even though the local city council was supposed to make changes to curb this out-of-control partying, well, Ainsley's reporting found that things this year are even worse than last year.
Ainsley is back with us, along with our studio audience, and tonight, we're going to go in depth and take a look at spring break.
What was the difference that you saw? Because as a result of the show last year, they changed the bar closing time from 4:00 AM to 2:00 AM.
HANNITY: OK. And no...
EARHARDT: No drinking on the beach without an ID.
HANNITY: Without an ID. Although the cops really don't go on the beach, right?
EARHARDT: Exactly. Because it's dangerous.
HANNITY: All right, what was some of the differences -- worse this year, you think, than last year.
EARHARDT: What I saw, yes. We have some council -- I have a councilman that I talked to on the phone yesterday. He disagrees. But what I saw this year compared to last year -- 100 percent. I saw -- and even the police officers are telling us -- or the sheriff's deputy -- we did a ride-along with the sheriff's department and...
HANNITY: You were there for three arrests, by the way, three drug busts.
EARHARDT: Right. That happened in a matter of one hour on Friday night. Now, I have the numbers.
EARHARDT: The sheriff sent them to me. Here are some of the updates. This is March 1st to March 24th, comparing this year to last year. So as far as bookings, 2,007. Last year, 1,397. Firearms received this year into evidence, 25 this year, and four last year. Arrests this year, 731 compared to 272 last year. And then charges, 982 compared to 398 last year. So it's -- I mean, the numbers...
HANNITY: It's out of control.
EARHARDT: The numbers prove that it's worse this year, a lot worse.
HANNITY: All right, everywhere you went, you smelled marijuana. Everywhere.
EARHARDT: Everywhere. Behind the two big clubs -- there are two huge clubs on the beach. And if you go behind those clubs, that's where we shot that video. That's where everyone congregates. And everywhere we walked, we were smelling marijuana. And I was talking to one guy who happened to be what I thought, smoking a joint right there in front of me. I said...
HANNITY: Yes, he walked away.
EARHARDT: I said, Wait a minute. Are you smoking pot? And he walked away.
HANNITY: Right. I saw that. And also a lot of sexual acts that you're seeing on the beach.
EARHARDT: Yes. Now, when we got there, the sheriff's department said there was a girl passed out on the beach, guys were having their way with her, and they only they discovered it is because they were -- kids were posting it on #springbreak2k15.
EARHARDT: And so they saw the video. When we were there, there were two girls passed out on the beach, and guys were taking the beer bong tube and slapping them with it and...
HANNITY: And they're passed out.
EARHARDT: They're passed out...
HANNITY: And they're taking pictures.
EARHARDT: ...taking selfies with them for social media.
HANNITY: Yes. And we also have issues where other girls have had trouble...
EARHARDT: Other girls flashing.
HANNITY: By the way, and that was like, every -- almost -- and every time you were filming, you said and our producer said that you -- they wanted to flash.
EARHARDT: They did. And there's so much that you can't...
HANNITY: This is 'Hannity.' This is not 'Girls Gone Wild.' That's another show. OK...
EARHARDT: Yes, we're not doing this -- listen, I want to be clear. Most of us went to spring break. Most of the people watching send their kids to spring break or they go on spring break. We're not fuddy-duds. But when you have guns and deaths and hundred-milers preying on our kids, when you have super-clubs and social media and drugs and sexual assault, it is a recipe for disaster.
EARHARDT: There's a better...
HANNITY: And I don't fault the law enforcement. I want to be very clear because I talked to the sheriff. The sheriff...
EARHARDT: They've been wonderful to us, the sheriff's department.
HANNITY: They're doing everything they can do with the manpower that they have.
EARHARDT: You're right.
HANNITY: And that's a big issue.
All right, Don, you were Ainsley's -- one of Ainsley's bodyguards, right?
DON GRAHAM, D-TRAIN SECURITY INC. CEO: That's correct.
HANNITY: All right, the real question most Americans want to know is, how many marriage proposals did Ainsley get?
HANNITY: Because I saw the guy -- he made a pretty good, strong pitch, Ainsley.
GRAHAM: Well, being her bodyguard, that was a tough job...
GRAHAM: ... trying to keep the guys off of her and trying to not -- you know, for them to propose to her. So that was one of my hardest jobs.
HANNITY: So there were a lot of proposals...
GRAHAM: ... a lot of proposals, and we had to back them up, give her 50 feet, you know?
HANNITY: All right. I know it's one of the tougher assignments Ainsley's had. But it really is, in a lot of ways. You have a history, a career in law enforcement, what, 20 years.
GRAHAM: Yes, 20 years.
GRAHAM: A former police officer and security executive.
GRAHAM: I have a security firm in the area that we cover all the counties in the Panhandle.
HANNITY: So tell us from your perspective, as a law enforcement guy, would you send your kids there?
GRAHAM: No, not at this time. Now, back say, six, seven years ago, maybe. But it has escalated into something more than a spring break, I would say more like a Mardi Gras.
GRAHAM: And so we got problems. But I think if we can all come together, we could resolve the issues.
HANNITY: But Wes, you're a local attorney. You actually buy PSAs, public service announcements, with your own money in the hopes that -- you want the city to turn around and make some changes because it's gotten so bad.
WES PITTMAN, PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLA., ATTORNEY: Well, Sean, that's right. Spring break, when I started practicing law there, was very, very nice in Panama City. It was a sane environment. Kids would come in and have fun, good fun. Of course, there was some rowdies, but not too many. Over the years, it got a lot worse. MTV came in, Lil Wayne show several years ago, and so forth, and it got really, really raunchy.
PITTMAN: And so yes, our -- you know, our property values have diminished in the county. Wait times in the emergency rooms have gone up. We fear that we cannot get an ambulance because they're out hauling drunks in or people who've been stabbed. There are lots of reasons to...
HANNITY: The mayor wouldn't come on the program this year. And I watched the mayor, and she just kept referencing how much money this meant to the city in terms of jobs created, etcetera.
HANNITY: You're saying that there's a way to have a spring break, but
PITTMAN: Absolutely. Destin just to our west has spring break. Pensacola Beach has spring break, good, clean environments, decent kids coming in. We've got a lot of decent kids. It's just these hundred-milers coming in and some of the trash coming in. We've got trash entertainment, which brings...
HANNITY: Which draws it in.
HANNITY: Kirsten, you're a former Miss America. You've been a great role model to girls. Here's what scares me. They're buying drugs from these predators, hundred-milers, thousand-milers. These guys come in for the distinct purpose of selling drugs to these kids and taking advantage of them. The kids buy it. They don't know what they're on. And then they lose consciousness, and then it goes downhill from there.
KIRSTEN HAGLUND, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. And also, young girls are trafficked into these situations, as well, which we haven't talked about. Slavery is a huge issue in the United States. We don't think about it, but it's in our back yard. And Florida...
HANNITY: Is that happening, Bo? Is there any sex trafficking, prostitution going on?
EARHARDT: We saw prostitution.
GRAHAM: Well, it's the -- more of I would say, local familiarity of the area. They prey on the spring breakers, the teenagers.
HANNITY: In other words, you have the 30-year-olds coming in, taking advantage of the 19-year-olds.
GRAHAM: Exactly. Exactly, taking advantage of the 19-year-olds...
HANNITY: That are all high on drugs and drunk.
GRAHAM: Exactly. And they supply the teens, you know, what they need, you know?
HAGLUND: And the thing is, is that, you know, a lot of people do go to spring break and they have a good time. They hang out with people that share their values and they don't get involved in the riffraff. But for the ones that do, I think if there are any young people watching or parents, to emphasize that the decisions they make -- it might seem fun in the moment. They might feel like they don't have any accountability or responsibility, just forget about it.
But the truth is, when they go home, if they get pregnant, if a girl has been raped, if they have severe health consequences because of an overdose, those are consequences that last a lifetime.
HANNITY: It's interesting, Ainsley, when the cameras were off -- and you're not shy about saying this -- you would try and counsel these kids, which, by the way, for those that don't know Ainsley, it's part of her nature.
EARHARDT: I, like, had a hard time with this because I was just thinking I need to pray for all these people because they don't know what they're doing. But when I would talk to the young girls, I would say, you know, What do you think about spring break? What's the worst thing you've seen? And the girl is saying 'F' my parents, and I said, Let me just tell you something. Do not flash. Do not do something you're going to regret because in 20 years, you're going to have kids and...
HANNITY: By the way, that is so...
HANNITY: That's such the antithesis of what the average media person...
EARHARDT: They would all hug me...
HANNITY: You have a great heart, more than anything else.
Gavin, you have -- you've been under fire a little bit. You were on the program the last two nights because you actually said it's far worse for girls than boys. And some people got angry that you said that.
GAVIN MCINNIS, 'THE DEATH OF COOL' AUTHOR: Well, it's frustrating you can only show so much footage here. No one knows about this throng of 10,000 people where the cops can't go, Fox can't go. And even if they could go, you can't describe what goes on there. You couldn't show it on a hard-core porn site!
This isn't even the spring break of two years ago. You have the pharmaceutical age. So you have massive partying going on, where rape is rampant, and rape is rampant because of oxy and heroin!
HANNITY: (INAUDIBLE) you take -- you take issue -- you think it's worse for both.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's just as bad for both of them.
HANNITY: It's just as bad for both.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I just do not agree that women can't hold their own in these types of situations.
MCINNIS: That's dangerous! When you say that kind of lie...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I don't agree with you!
MCINNIS: ... you are making women vulnerable!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you...
MCINNIS: You want to do pullups right now? Who could do more pullups?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could probably do more push-ups, so we can do that on another segment, but...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do want to point out something, though. You said that, you know, entertainers like Lil Wayne and things like that are bringing maybe riffraff to spring break, and I really don't agree with that because they do have strong messages of "Don't do drugs"...
MCINNIS: Lil Wayne?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... and you know, Don't drink, you know, their own personal lives, maybe they do...
MCINNIS: Lil Wayne?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I don't think that that's fair to say, that the entertainment is making this happen.
EARHARDT: I think he means wet T-shirt contests and things like that. That's not a good message.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I mean, of course it's not a good message, but I don't think that it's Hollywood to blame for (INAUDIBLE)
HANNITY: You bring in rappers, not every rapper has the best message. Let's be...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know, but at the end of the day, though...
HANNITY: The rappers, they use...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... their music is not what they're doing in...
HANNITY: They call women 'B's' and ho's...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... their daily lives.
HANNITY: I don't think that fits into exactly the environment that...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't think that's what we should be putting the onus on here.
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Spring Break crowd storms Fort Lauderdale beach — COVID or not
By Susannah Bryan
South Florida Sun Sentinel|
Mar 05, 2021 at 7:30 AM
Thong bikinis, cold beer and maskless throngs.
That’s how Spring Break looked Thursday on the famous Fort Lauderdale strip, just days into the start of the popular college pasttime that lasts into April.
Universities across the country canceled Spring Break to discourage college coeds from spreading the coronavirus. But judging from the crowds hitting the beach, the kids are here in full force, pandemic or not.
“I was here two years ago and came back to see what it’s like now with COVID,” said 21-year-old Jack Gumeinny, who flew down from frigid Michigan on Sunday and plans to head home Saturday. “Florida hasn’t skipped a beat.”
Gumeinny, a junior at Davenport University, shrugged at the lack of social distancing.
“We’re not in the at-risk group,” he said.
Gumeinny said he and his buddies planned to head to a strip club in between bar hopping. On Thursday, they partied at Café Ibiza on A1A, surrounded by a crowd of maskless coeds dancing to the loudest music on the block.
The place was so packed, it made the usually busy Elbo Room look sedate by comparison.
Down at the Elbo Room, Lauren Tedeschi, 53, took in the crazy scene with her 25-year-old niece here on a quick getaway from Boston.
“I knew the Spring Breakers would show up,” said Tedeschi, who spends winters in Fort Lauderdale and summers in Boston. “Just look at the beach. They’re out in full force. And this is the start of Spring Break. It’s only going to get more crazy.”
When Tedeschi goes to a bar, she says she makes sure to sit outside. If she spotted a bar that was not enforcing social distancing, she wouldn’t go in.
“I don’t want to say I’m not worried,” she said. “I’m cautious, but here I am sitting at the Elbo Room. But I’m sitting outside. In New England, you have no choice.”
Not every local is taking the scene in stride.
Beach resident Chad McCoury was alarmed enough by the crowd swarming Café Ibiza to stop and record video of the crowd on Wednesday.
“That was craziness,” said McCoury, who posted the video on social media. “It was like Spring Break 2020 all over again. It was like one big party scene. Everyone else was stopping and looking in awe that this was happening in the middle of the day.”
Broward Mayor Steve Geller says he forwarded McCoury’s video to county code enforcement.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Geller said. “I’m not opposed to college kids having fun — just not in the middle of a pandemic. We will take action” if Fort Lauderdale doesn’t.
Like other bars and restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, Café Ibiza has already run afoul of city code officers for not enforcing pandemic-related safety protocols.
Ibiza got a warning on Jan. 2 for not enforcing facial coverings or social distancing and was shut down for the same reason June 19. The bar was also shut down for 24 hours on Aug. 23 for not enforcing social distancing and placing tables too close together.
A hostess at Café Ibiza declined to comment Wednesday after explaining that the general manager was not available. A spokeswoman for Café Ibiza also declined to comment.
On Wednesday, an anonymous critic reported Café Ibiza on the county’s COVID-19 complaint dashboard for not enforcing social distancing or mask wearing. As of Wednesday afternoon, no code officers had paid a visit to check out the complaint.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis downplayed the video, saying most of the city’s beachfront businesses are complying.
“People will always find random evidence of non-compliance and make it appear that’s the norm,” he said. “Most people are aware of the rules and obey the rules. We have beaches and open-air environments, and open-air environments are not considered to be putting people at risk. I think people should spend more time focusing than trying to play gotcha with other people visiting our community.”
Police officers patrolled in front of the establishment Thursday, but it’s up to code officers to enforce safety protocols like mask wearing, a spokeswoman for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department said.
“That was the only place I saw in the whole strip where people were dancing and partying,” McCoury said of Café Ibiza. “They did not have masks on. It looked like a dance club. I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re just in week one. I hope this is not how it’s going to be.”
On Thursday, Trantalis said he and his staff have contacted each bar and restaurant along A1A to make sure they follow safety protocols, especially during Spring Break.
“I did contact one bar personally, the Elbo Room,” he said. “I spoke to [owner] Mike Penrod and he made a promise that his bar will no longer be the poster child of non-compliance.”
Penrod said he’s not looking to have his place shut down after being forced to close for seven months during the early days of the pandemic, when bars weren’t allowed to operate. But he’s not too worried about this year’s Spring Breach crowd.
“It hasn’t been too crazy yet,” he said. “Even though the Elbo Room is known for where the boys are, it’s a mature crowd that has money [that comes here]. The kids go down somewhere else.”
For spring reak, my friends and I decided to celebrate in Panama City Beach, only to discover too late that recently passed legislation was going to restrict our weekend on the Florida coastline. Legislation approved in May 2015 strengthened regulations designed to prevent the spring break destination from becoming further associated with debauchery, hooliganism and violence.
As we drove through PCB toward our hotel, my friends and I saw several indications that the laws were in full swing. Before I had even arrived at my hotel, which was about ten minutes from the beach, a sign caught my eye: “New law: No alcoholic drinks between 3/1/17-3/31/17 permitted on the beach.”
The vibes were definitely suffering.
While the mention of spring break usually evokes images of white sandy beaches inhabited by hyper-sexed college students drinking Four Loko, that party may be over. While we were there, police cruisers drove by the beach entrance, even pulling up near our area on our last day. While the police presence was unwelcome, it was also unnecessary; there were so few partygoers that the cops probably felt that they were wasting their time too.
The nightlife in PCB felt slightly less restricted, and we saw fewer police cruisers as we drove to dinner on the beach. You could tell local businesses had been struggling because of the new laws, and our waiter at Sharky’s told my table just how hard it was turning a profit without the student business.
“I’m glad you guys turned up,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d get any tables tonight.”
He told us that the bartender had recently become the in-house D.J. in order to attract patrons who wanted to eat and party in the same spot. As we wrapped up dinner, the DJ/bartender began playing “Planes” by Jeremiah, and, as my party and a group of spring break girls began to dance and sing along, some older customers moved to a different area. In that moment, you could see the divide that brought about the complaints and subsequent legal amendments, as local residents clearly felt that the spring breakers were too rowdy for their off-season tastes.
While many residents may welcome the new laws, some locals are not so keen on them. When my group went shopping, I talked with an employee at Hollister about how regulations have shuttered the economy. “Last year, about 80 percent of hotel rooms were cancelled when people found out about the new law,” he told me. “This year it’s about 60 percent … The law has gotten out of control, a mom was arrested in front of her kids.”
He went on to explain that, because of the umbrella regulation prohibiting alcohol consumption in March, even people over the age of 21 are being arrested for drinking on the beaches. The rule prevents unruly college kids from abusing the situation, but it also ruins the beach for people who did nothing wrong.
Aside from the occasional police drive-by, the beach was relaxing. Knowing the laws in place, no one in my party brought any alcohol; but, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess that the beach was pretty empty because of the new legislation. I had been to PCB last summer and saw way more college students then than I did all three days this March. Nevertheless, the waves and sand were just as fun now as last time.
I noticed some spring breakers with a few odd containers, all of which disappeared when police officers came through, but nothing else stuck out. There were more families than any other identifiable groups, so it felt more like a summer vacation in high school than true college spring break.
There were some events catered to Spring Breakers at a local club, La Vela. Rich Homie Quan performed one night when we were there, and Waka Flocka was performing at the same club the following week. Local businesses knew that it was college spring break, so they booked some big name artists to attract business; even so, the club vibes and nightlife struggled, at least in this first week of March, because so many students went other places to party.
Also, amusement parks like Race City looked more like ghost towns because of the lack of customers. Last summer, Race City was packed, with several people waiting in line just to go-kart, but this spring break, we could buy tickets in less than ten minutes; in the arcade area, there were more employees than customers. It was clear that while the new laws had eliminated a lot of unnecessary violence and disruption, businesses were suffering from lack of customers.
In the end, PCB is a great place to vacation. I will go back for the weather, beaches and food, but, I would not suggest Panama City Beach to any college students who want to go wild on their vacation. As a laid-back person, I didn’t miss much during my stay, but I can tell the party had left the beach. Even the sun and waves couldn’t bring many spring breakers out to the ocean, as most probably stayed in their hotel rooms to party, or went to the bars and clubs if they were old enough.
As we shopped and went to different areas in PCB, I saw plenty of college students, but on the beach, there was hardly anyone when we went. As a result, I don’t think I got the full spring break experience during my time in PCB, and next year, I could see myself going there for the summer, but to someplace like Cancun for spring break.
Though I enjoyed my overall experience in PCB, I can see why many would not choose to visit on their spring break vacations. Because of the new laws, even families avoided the city so they would not end up arrested for drinking on the beach. PCB is the place to be for the summer, but not to turn up during spring break.
Spring break 2015 crazy
It was a spring break to remember but not for the reasons you may think. In 2015, Panama City Beach was thrust into the national spotlight.
Loud music and spring breakers crowded the beaches in 2015. Sirens and police lights more often than not were soon to follow.
"Social media came into play for the first time in our city in a big way," former Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst said.
A quick search of "Panama City Beach spring break 2015" portrays a fun time but a short scroll down reads the reality.
Headline after headline, PCB was thrust into the national spotlight, and not for good reason. To make matters worse, social media spread the negative image nationwide.
"It was like 'oh my gosh, please don't let this happen.' And we were being broadcast nationally and it was a bad, bad image. And that's not what we wanted," Oberst said.
Circulating on social media was a video of a gang rape.
Former Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen remembers seeing the video for the first time.
"That drew the line in the sand for me," former Sheriff McKeithen said. "And it just made me realize these people are out of control."
Dozens of people stood by, watching it unfold.
Weeks later, a party turns violent when seven people were shot at a Panama City Beach house.
Current Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford remembers it like a war zone.
"Two victims that were shot were across the street. We had one in the median. I went into the apartment and there was the girl that had been shot in the head and two deputies covered in blood doing CPR," Sheriff Ford said.
Both incidents attracted a national spotlight on a worsening situation.
"It was one of the moments in my career that I'll never forget. As hard as we worked and as much as we were telling them this is going to happen, this is going to happen, please help us," Former Sheriff McKeithen said. "And it did happen."
However, it wasn't just spring breakers wreaking havoc. Partiers, often including drug dealers known as 100-milers, drove into PCB to prey off the energy.
"We were finding a trend of people in their late-20s to mid-30s, and sometimes their 40s who would follow the party and take advantage of our young adults," Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman said.
Their choice of hotel was the Walmart parking lot.
"None of us liked that negative publicity, but it was absolutely true what was being said," Sheriff Ford said.
It was time for Panama City Beach to speak a new truth.
"We started, I guess you could say, fighting back," Former Sheriff McKeithen said.
Starting in 2016, alcohol was banned on sandy beaches during March. This new law combined with the end of alcohol sales at 2 a.m. and prohibiting parking in a closed business' parking lot was a step toward regaining control of the beach.
"We just thought we were the only ones seeing this for a while, unfortunately. And then we realized wait a minute the entire county, a lot of it is seeing it," Former Sheriff McKeithen said.
Met with support from the community and fellow police, Panama City Beach started changing for the better.
"Spring break 2015, 2014, threatened all of that. Threatens our reputation for being a good, wholesome place for families to come," Sheriff Ford said.
"A lot of the (crime) trends are dropping. They went from a lot of serious, violent felony crimes to crimes we can control because we can actually be more proactive police," Chief Whitman said.
Today, police are now using what once destroyed the beach to build it up, posting reminders of the laws on online platforms like Facebook.
"We're constantly pushing the message out there what laws we're going to enforce, what the laws are here," Chief Whitman said.
Five years ago the beach was different.
"It's transformed the March and April time frame in a very positive way," Sheriff Ford said. "I think the future is so bright for Bay County in general and for the beach."
Copyright 2020 WJHG. All rights reserved.
A Quick and Dirty History of Spring Break
Do you smell that, the unmistakable odor of stale beer and sunscreen mixed with regret? Yes, it's that time of year again, when hundreds of thousands of American college students descend on resort towns in Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean for a week of day-drinking, EDM-thumping foam parties and more than a few poor decisions.
But how, exactly, did spring break become a booze-fueled rite of passage for American coeds? And do today's college kids still get psyched about a week of sunburn, hangovers and fried shrimp specials, or have they moved on to more respectable choices?
Blame the Greeks
Let's start with some history. Ancient history. Turns out you can trace the roots of Spring Break all the way back to those crazy Ancient Greeks. Apparently, it could get stressful inventing democracy and Western philosophy all day, so the Greeks liked to blow off some steam each spring with a three-day "awakening" dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility.
But the real start of spring break as we know it was in the mid-1930s, when a swimming coach from Colgate University in frigid Upstate New York decided to take his team down to Florida for some early training at a brand-new Olympic-size pool in sunny Fort Lauderdale. The idea clicked with other college swim coaches and soon the spring training migration became an annual tradition for swimmers nationwide.
Since you can only swim so much (wrinkly fingers are a real thing), the college athletes also excelled in partying. Word got back to campus that Florida wasn't a bad place to spend Easter break and the flow of northern college students to southern beaches started to pick up through the 1940s and 1950s.
'Where the Boys Are'
But the uncontested landmark moment in spring break history was the publication of a little book originally titled "Unholy Spring," but smartly changed to "Where the Boys Are." In 1958, Glendon Swarthout was an English professor at Michigan State University who tagged along with his students (not creepy at all) to witness their Beatnik-era shenanigans in Fort Lauderdale.
Back then, hooking up was called "playing house" and Swarthout witnessed enough house-playing, beach cruising and beer-chugging in Fort Lauderdale to fill his breakout novel, published in 1960. MGM quickly turned "Where the Boys Are" into a blockbuster romantic comedy that made spring break in Florida seem like paradise -- or at least a version of paradise where you sleep 20 people to a hotel room but the cute guy has a yacht.
After "Where the Boys Are," the spring break floodgates were officially wide open. Seemingly overnight the numbers of college students visiting Fort Lauderdale over Easter vacation went from 20,000 to 50,000. By 1985, an estimated 350,000 students mobbed Fort Lauderdale during spring break. In response, the town passed tougher public drinking laws and the mayor even went on "Good Morning America" to tell spring breakers to take their balcony-diving, drunk-driving antics somewhere else.
Which they did. Other Florida beaches had already begun to pick up the overflow from Fort Lauderdale, including Panama City Beach and Daytona Beach.
The latter became the shooting location for MTV's first-ever spring break special broadcast in 1986. By the mid-1990s, MTV's annual skinfest had become a cultural institution, showcasing live musical performances and lots of Carmen Electra in a bikini from spring break destinations like Cancun, Jamaica and (for some reason) Lake Havasu, Arizona.
Around the same time, another spring break tradition was born far from the beaches of Florida or Mexico. In 1983, some black college students in Atlanta, Georgia, organized a picnic for kids who were stuck on campus over Spring Break. This was a few years after the number-one disco hit "Le Freak" and Rick James' "Superfreak" was still big, so the organizers decided to call their picnic gathering Freaknik.
What started as a small get-together with burgers, hot dogs and a boom box would explode over the next decade into THE Spring Break destination for black college students (and high school students, and anyone else who felt like coming). By 1996, hundreds of thousands of young black people would cruise into Atlanta for Freaknik, clogging traffic day and night for a multi-day street party. Freaknik cemented Atlanta as a Mecca of black culture, but the party fizzled out around 1999, as the mayor cracked down hard on cruising.
Gone are the heydays of MTV and Freaknik, but is spring break still a big deal for today's college kids?
Alternative Spring Breaks
Numbers are hard to come by, but as recently as 2013, Panama City Beach was drawing 500,000 people a year to its sugary white (minus the barf-stains) shores. Then, after a particular nasty Spring Break in 2015, Panama City officials voted to ban all alcohol consumption on the beach, which has apparently drained the life out of the party.
What's clear is that college students today have a lot more choices for how they want to spend their spring break. The beaches are definitely still popular -- according to a 2015 survey, 50 percent of college students planned to go somewhere "warm" for spring break -- but so are trips that emphasize meaning over mayhem.
In 1989, Habitat for Humanity became one of the first volunteer organizations to offer an "Alternative Spring Break" to college kids looking to give back over vacation. Since then, more than 260,000 students have participated in Habitat's Collegiate Challenge, including 7,000 in 2018, according to a Habitat spokesperson.
Today there are hundreds of alternative spring break chapters at colleges and universities across the United States. Kelly Esenther is a sophomore psychology major at Michigan State University where she's the education coordinator for Alternative Spartan Breaks, which organizes 17 different trips each year for activities like trail construction or HIV advocacy.
In an email, Esenther says that more than 200 MSU students sign up each year, even though they don't know where they're going until they're accepted into the program. For them, it's about the experience, not the destination.
Originally Published: Mar 16, 2018
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It was 2 blocks to go to the house. She walked very slowly, with tiny steps, and again I asked why. To say that her answer amazed me is to say nothing.