Going to a festival filled with 300,000 people may allow you to experience the true feeling of freedom because while you are with so many people, no one is watching you. Or are they? Believe it or not, this year at the annual Gaspirarilla Pirate Festival, big brother will be there keeping a very close watch; they are also known as the Tampa Police. According to reports, the Tampa Police installed a $2 million security camera system into the downtown area in August, which they will be using next week to keep a close watch on the rowdy crowds. The cameras were originally installed to provide close security for the Republican National Convention, and have since been used in order to help with crime rates in the area.
The Gaspirarilla Festival is considered an annual celebration of a mythical Spanish pirate captain, Jose Gaspar, who was from Florida; an event to bring the people in town together for a time of fun and activities. In the 1970's this parade was originally a part of the state fair, however once the fair moved locations the pirates celebration became its own event. They then added more activities including a movie festival, children's pirate parade, races, arts, and more; this year's event will be on January 26, 2013.
While this event is an exciting time for the Tampa community to gather together, the police have added this new security system not necessarily to catch those who are getting drunk during the festival but rather to keep a close eye out for fights or brawls, and other crimes that are likely to happen in large events like this. There will be numerous police throughout the grounds keeping an eye out for those who are carrying open containers of alcohol, however. Police Chief Jane Castor claims that their mission is to keep the people safe with this new security camera system, and because either eyes will be almost everywhere, fire-rescue can respond much more quickly to the situations. Chief Castor states that even if there is a child who gets lost or separated from their group, these cameras will be able to help the parents more quickly than officers on foot.
Police report that in just these last few months, they were able to use these 58 different cameras to solve a local rape crime that occurred in the downtown area. Despite helping the victim of a rape, the community feels as though Big Brother is a violation of their freedom to enjoy the parade and other activities without the police monitoring their every step. Mike Pheneger, a retired Army colonel, claims that his view is that the police are trying to address crimes that have never occurred before at the festival, resulting in the people feeling personally invaded as opposed to safe.
According to reports of the past Gasparilla events, police arrest on average between 200 and 400 individuals for carrying open alcohol containers at the festival. However, since 2012 the laws have become a little looser if the adult was merely carrying the bottle as opposed to consuming it, and they agreed to send people home with a ticket (or civil citation) as opposed to giving out criminal drinking charges. Last year's festival arrests statistics included 302 of those civil citations for individuals carrying open bottles of alcohol, another 27 underage drinking charges and 28 arrests for various other
violations and crimes.
If you or someone you know are arrested during this event next week, for drinking or another criminal charge, contact Thomas & Paulk, P.A. immediately for an aggressive and experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney who is prepared to fight on your behalf. At our firm we have helped countless individuals with criminal charges, and we want to help you.
Contact us immediately!