Policing the Waterways this Independence Day



Law enforcement will be focused on the beaches and waterways today while the community comes together for Independence Day celebrations. Sheriff’s deputies and officers, expecting an increase in boating, encourage people to act responsibly while celebrating the holiday. 

Our Marine Unit will patrol the waterways as always, paying special attention to boaters operating vessels while under the influence,” says Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kaitlyn Perez. “Further, on land, our Traffic and DUI Units will continue to look for impaired drivers.”

Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino says similarly officers in the city will be mindful of alcohol on the water. She’s also aware that many steering vessels today aren’t experienced boaters, and should use particular precaution while navigating the waves. “Wear seatbelts to try to reduce injuries. There are more boaters so show more awareness,” DiPino says.

The chief also asked people to take precaution when drinking, whether on land or sea. Today, those drinking in the city have access to Uber and taxi services in addition to simply having a designated driver in their party. “There’s no excuse to get behind the wheel of a car buzzed,” DiPino says. “And buzzed driving is drink driving. Get a ride home.”

Perez says parents taking children to public gatherings should make sure to take a cell phone photo that shows what their kids look like today and what they are wearing incase the family gets separated and parents need help from law enforcement in finding their children. The sheriff’s office does encourage people go to enjoy the public fireworks displays rather than set off fireworks in residential areas.

And for those that will be using purchased fireworks, DiPino stressed that they be careful not to get burned, particular if children are around. She noted that even something as simple as a sparkler can badly burn a hand if the lighted end touches skin.

Longboat Key Town Hall will host the Annual Freedom Fest and Hot Diggity Dog Parade at 9am today, and the Anna Maria Island Privateers will host a parade from 10am-1pm, with an after-party at the Ugly Grouper in Holmes Beach.

The Suncoast Offshore Festival will host the Fireworks Spectacular over Sarasota Bay, visible from downtown, Bayfront Park and Island Park, with the show starting at 9pm. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will host the All American Barbecue and Independence Day Celebration from 6-10pm. The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce will also set off splays over the beach, launched from north of the volleyball courts, at 9am. In the Venice area, there will also be a fireworks display tonight visible from Venice or Nokomis Beach, fired from the south Venice Jetty.

The City of Palmetto will host a fireworks display over the Manatee River, visible from the Riverwalk in Bradenton or Palmetto. The Sandbar on Anna Maria will host its 31st annual display. North Port hosts the 13th annual Freedom Festival, starting at 6pm and running until 9:30pm, with fireworks in the evening. 

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