By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
February 5, 2015
Editor’s Note: This is part one in a series exploring how South Padre Island is preparing for the 2015 Spring Break season.
Texas Week. All College Week. Fraternities. Sororities. UME. Traffic. Alcohol. It’s all coming.
Every division in the City of South Padre Island is gearing up for what is expected to be an immense influx of young people traveling to the area from all over the country and Mexico. The season will start a little earlier this year — Feb. 28 — thanks to the break structure of some universities in northern states. Many others will begin their break on March 7, but most Texas schools, the source of the largest wave of coed fun-seekers, don’t begin their break until March 14. That day will kick off what has become known annually as Texas Week, which is one of the Island’s biggest tourist seasons.
Making the vacation period a success from a security perspective depends on the readiness of the City’s trained entities — police, medical, and transportation services — to provide the accommodations required to protect residents as well as provide a safe environment for visitors
In these next few weeks leading up to Spring Break, the PRESS will examine how the Island is preparing to face the challenging tasks required to host a safe and successful 2015 season. We begin the series this week by taking a closer look at law enforcement preparations.
Additional hiring of security staff began in January, which includes a daunting process of candidate interviews, background checks and physicals. Beyond manpower, a practice known as agency to agency collaboration will occur, in which the SPI police department works with other law enforcement agencies to identify additional needs to handle the upcoming March madness. That includes vehicles and equipment. Still, no amount of preparation guarantees a smooth holiday, particularly when venues choose to unveil events late. The recent departure of Coca-cola Beach, which was a location law enforcement could rely on as a known “hotspot” that needed a greater police presence, makes things more difficult, as well.
“One of the problems is that we never know what the next Spring Break will hold,” SPI Police Chief Randy Smith said. “The situation we have is we’re trying to figure out how many people we’re going to have, where to put our resources and how to best address the call volume we’re going to be facing. When to stage our people. When to staff our people… We have experienced personnel on our staff that are trained with us in our uniform ready to go at a minute’s notice. [During that time] we’re scrambling to put all the people we need in the places they to be,” he said.
Chief Smith went on to mention that local law enforcement will be assisted by an advanced scanning system and a comprehensive records database, allowing police to reliably seek out individuals wanted for serious crimes who choose to come to the area as means to lie low or continue their criminal activity.
“You can only imagine some of the crowds that are going come, but we’re hoping this makes the criminal element think twice before coming across the bridge,” he said.
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