TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Gasparilla is Tampa’s biggest party, a tradition since 1904.
It’s also an event that takes hundreds of officers from 21 different agencies to keep everyone safe. Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward said he has to plan for the worst.
“Some things or some parts of our plan you’ll see and there’s a lot of it you won’t see. The ultimate goal is to make sure the public is safe without the people coming down making them feel they’re are in an occupied city,” Ward said.
This year law enforcement officers have a new security concern. They are advising people to keep their drones at home.
“Anytime you have a mass of people in one place and someone operating a drone over that amount of people there’s always that possibility it will lose contact. If it loses contact, you are looking at an object that is possibly 20 pounds hitting someone in the head or injuring them and that’s always a concern for us as well,” Ward said.
Police spokesman Steve Hegarty said drones are illegal above the parade route and invasion flotilla. “Because we are near an airport, Peter O. Knight just across the way; number two, we don’t need that cluttering up the skies,” Hegarty said.
Police will also be looking out for underage drinking, illegally parked cars and anyone consuming alcohol away from the parade route.
Law enforcement officers are also aware that large gatherings are a potential target for terror attacks. “The thing that we tell people is, ‘If you see something, say something,’ because if anything is going to happen on the route, somebody will probably see something before that. We want them to go up to a police officer and let them know if they see anything that’s out of order,” Hegarty said.
Ward wants paradegoers to have a good time and go home with beads – not arrest records.