Panama Beach police seize enough guns to ‘arm a small army’ amid spring break crackdown, vow perps will meet justice

While much of the attention has been on violent spring breakers in South Florida, Panama City Beach in Northeast Florida has been dealing with a “dramatic” surge in crime as well.

That’s according to the Panama City News Herald, with the newspaper reporting on multiple arrests and gun confiscations.

At a press conference Monday, Beach Police Chief J.R. Talamantez and other law enforcement leaders announced that more than 160 people had been arrested over the weekend and that police took possession of 75 illegal guns.

“These guns were taken over a period of two days,” Beach Police Chief J.R. Talamantez said. “It could arm a small army. Semiautomatic weapons, long rifles – these are weapons brought to a resort destination. These are weapons brought to a beach.”

The resolute police chief said lawbreakers “will soon find out what justice looks like in Bay County.”

“Right here, today, we stand united as not only law enforcement officials, not only as city leadership or county leadership, but just as citizens of Bay County,” Talamantez said. “What we saw this past weekend is absolutely unacceptable, period. These pathetic cowards who came and committed these crimes — their actions will not be tolerated.”

Despite all the firearms on the street, there was only reported shooting in Panama City Beach over the weekend, when a 21-year-old victim from Alabama was shot in the foot near a Waffle House.

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford accredited the efforts of various law enforcement agencies in minimizing the harm inflicted by rowdy spring breakers.

“We were faced with dangerous circumstances but stood firm in protecting our county,” Ford said, according to the News-Herald. “Each one of these 75 firearms … represents a violent encounter with law enforcement, and I’m so proud of the law enforcement officers who stood in that gap (between) citizens and the criminals who were carrying these guns.”

The sheriff said prior planning has worked to their advantage.

“We will not tolerate this criminal activity,” Ford said. “These are behaviors that we as a community have fought before, won and moved on (from) to become a premier family destination. … If you come here to act like a criminal, we’ll treat you like one.”

Panama City Police Chief Mark Smith said those behind the chaos are not traditional spring breakers, but “true criminals.”

“Every time one of our brave officers confronted these 75 individuals, it was an opportunity for that brave officer to have lost their life or been forced to take someone else’s life,” Smith said. “This is not what Bay County is about, not what Panama City Beach is about.”

“This isn’t what we want coming to our city,” he added. “We want the spring breakers. We want the tourists, but we don’t want this criminal element.”

In Miami Beach, police are dealing with the sheer panic of spring breakers running from the sound of gunfire and massive street brawls, while city officials have enacted a curfew.

One hotelier who opposes the curfews, insisting that they aren’t working, is urging city officials to change zoning ordinances to deal with “chaos and mayhem.” He said the area should be rebranded using an Art Deco vibe to attract more mature tourists from abroad and that the waterfront community should be preserved for residents, businesses, and for millions of visitors who travel to the area every year.

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