Spring Break is in full swing in Port Aransas. Needless to say I have been a little too busy to write one of my usual Pulitzer-worthy columns this week, so here are some random thoughts and observations from the trenches.
The most frequent question I have been asked during the past month is, “Are you ready for Spring Break”?
I am not really sure that a small police department in a small town can ever be truly “ready” for upwards of 100,000 people to descend upon it. To keep things in perspective, consider the following: I used to work with The University of Texas at Austin to help provide crowd management for football games (the capacity of DKRMemorial Stadium is about 100,000).
We typically had about 300 cops (excluding those working patrol and those working outside the perimeter) for an event that was contained in a relatively small area, that lasted about four hours, in a venue that did not allow alcoholic beverages (yes, I know people still drank). In other words, you could not swing a dead cat without hitting a cop.
Compare that to Spring Break in Port Aransas. Like the university, we do have a plan and we are able to reach out to other law enforcement agencies to help supplement our ranks. Beyond that, there is no comparison.
We have 14 officers (about half of whom are off duty at any given time, even when they work 12 hour shifts) for an event that has about the same number of visitors as a UT football game, scattered throughout an eight-squaremile area, that lasts for 216 straight hours, in a venue that, shall we say, is not known for its temperate attitude.
Fortunately, we have help from Nueces County Precinct 4 Constable Bobbv Sherwood, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officers, so our numbers swell to about 30-40 cops during peak periods.
Are we ready for Spring Break? Yes, at least as ready as can reasonably be expected.
Speaking of being ready for Spring Break, I want to thank Assistant City Manager David Parsons and his crew at Beach Operations. Their work on the beach over the winter, prior to and during Spring Break has really paid off. The wider roads and harder surfaces have relieved much of the congestion and made traffic flow on the beach better.
For those knuckleheads out there who feel compelled to spin their tires and tear up our beach, stop it! Your actions not only impede traffic, they are dangerous and illegal.
One last thing; If you need to call 911, it would be helpful if you could tell us where you are. There are beach markers (little green signs with numbers on them) located every tenth of a mile along the top of the dunes. When you park, take a moment and identify the number on the sign closest to you. It will help us locate you faster than telling us you are in the white truck next to the water.
Scott Burroughs is the chief of the Port Aransas Police Department. Contact him at sburroughs@cityofportarans as.org or at 749-6241.