Gasparilla postmortem: How effective was law enforcement?

This year’s list of Gasparilla no-no’s included no peeing on lawns/buildings/anyplace that isn’t a blue port-o-let, no drinking in the neighborhood streets (parade route is fine, just no bottles please), no hauling big coolers and/or kegs anywhere but to a house party and women were not allowed to solicit for beads by lifting their shirts up. Men, of course, were still allowed to lift their shirts up, although the effectiveness of their doing so for beads remains inconclusive as of press time.

For me, proof that organizers are taking this seriously came when I applied for a press pass to cover the parade. Three years ago all I had to do was contact the organization in charge and ask for one; this year I had to show ID and fill out a form that, I was told, would be forwarded to the TPD. The badge itself was autographed by the Chief of Police Jane Castor. Signs heralding the return of the all-powerful street party indicated that many normal aspects of the parade remain. The neighborhoods of South Tampa still sported the No Parking barricades that threaten towing at the owner’s expense. Many of the offices on Macdill Ave. had closed off their parking lots with yellow tape, making the empty lots look like crime scenes. At least one restaurant on Macdill advertised free beer for the event.

Although the bad weather probably did factor into the mood of the  parade, the police certainly deserve the bulk of the credit for following through on their promise to enforce the rules. Their success is compounded by the fact that they had to prepare for both the Day Parade and President Obama's visit in the same week. And they're not done yet; the Knight Parade is this weekend in Ybor City, and then St. Patrick's Day follows the month after.

For many, the real excitement of this year's Gasparilla Day Parade meant waiting to see how well the combined forces of Gasparilla organizers and the Tampa Police Department enforced the no-pee zones in the neighborhoods. And they came down hard, too: the St. Pete Times reported that 413 arrests were made during the parade, a dramatic rise over the 127 arrests reported for last year's day parade. After last year’s town hall meetings brought to light many of the problems of having 300,000-plus people with access to alcohol and residential areas but not necessarily a bathroom during a festival, the police came down hard during the rainy Day Parade. Both the Tampa Tribune and the St. Pete Times published multiple stories, at least one a day since Tuesday, on the challenges bearing down on the event after last year’s black eye from the residents living by Bayshore. The stories got mostly front-page treatment last week, along with President Obama’s trip to Tampa and the 1,001 jokes about the iPad. And readers of The Daily Loaf got to see the whole shebang, umbrellas and all, in the photos of Chip Weiner.

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