‘We don’t want any empty desks after spring break’

Kara McIntyre

Spring break is only a few days away — the bright sunlight, plenty of sunscreen and coolers full of water and Capri-Sun.

Well, that’s what mom thinks, anyway.

Yeti coolers filled to the brim with every kind of beer, liquor, bagged wine and maybe a few water bottles line the beaches in Florida, Alabama and southern Texas. Outdoor concerts and clubs feature popular artists such as 2 Chainz, Zedd, Ty Dolla $ign, Jake Owen, Migos, Waka Flocka Flame, Post Malone and Rich Homie Quan. There’s always something to do or someone handing out alcohol like Oprah Winfrey.

But police officers are handing out tickets, too. According to Lawrence Specker of al.com, the Sheriff’s Beach Patrol made 40 arrests within two days in March 2016, resulting in 52 charges, 28 of which were for possession of alcohol on the beach. During the first week of spring break, there were 873 calls for service to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office in beach zones with a total of 73 arrests, resulting in 87 charges — and those numbers do not include arrests by the Panama City Beach police.

“When it comes to spring break, you get a lot of the kids who drink excessively,” Albert Jimenes, university police sergeant, said. “The main safety concern is always alcohol consumption.”

Jimenes suggested that students stay in a group and if someone gets lost, they shouldn’t make it obvious to others.

“Unfortunately, many predators use spring break kids as their targets. Drinking lowers your inhibitions, so you’ll often trust a stranger to help you,” Jimenes said. “If you get lost, try to find another group to mingle with until you find your way back to the hotel or to your original group.”

Common charges among spring break arrests include:

  • Minor in possession: $50-$500 fine with possible jail time, community service hours and suspension of driver’s license
  • Minor in consumption: up to $500 fine, suspension of driver’s license, community service hours and mandatory alcohol awareness classes
  • Public intoxication: up to $400 fine, possible jail time
  • Possession of marijuana: up to $2,000 fine, jail time, mandatory drug testing, electronic monitoring, probation and mandatory drug awareness classes
  • Disorderly conduct: $25-$1,000 fine and possible jail time or probation
  • Supplying alcohol to a minor: up to $5,000 fine, but $500-$1,000 fine is more common; possible jail time or probation
  • DUI: up to $10,000 fine, jail time or probation and suspension of driver’s license

Many students use spring break as their mental break from midterms, work, thinking about graduation, etc. Ruby Arriaga, coordinator of student activities, said the Office of Student Development and Orientation created the Safe Spring Break events, which begin March 8, to inform students of ways to remain safe during the week off.

“Around this time, students get really stressed out and they haven’t had much time to go out and relax,” Arriaga said. “They go extra hard during the one week they have off and do whatever they want. They forget how to stay safe, and we want to remind them that safety is a priority.”

Activities for Safe Spring Break will include drunk goggle cornhole, Texas Department of Transportation distracted driving simulator, free food, photo booth, trashketball and other games.

“We just want students to remember to drink responsibly, stay hydrated and take all necessary precautions. We know drinking is going to happen, but we want them to know how to drink in a safe way,” Arriaga said. “You hear about those stories where students go on spring break, get in an accident and don’t come back to school. We don’t want any empty desks at MSU.”

Other students use spring break as a volunteer opportunity.

Ben Edfeldt, director of Baptist Student Ministry, organizes a service event every spring break for BSM students to attend. This year, 27 students will drive down to South Padre Island to serve their peers on the beaches as a means of servant evangelism.

“This is part of an event called Beach Reach, and we’re doing this to serve as a function of keeping students safe,” Edfeldt said. “Students out there often make poor decisions and wonder, ‘What do I do next?’ We’re there to help.”

Beach Reach began in 1980 with 20 students who had a vision to reach their peers during spring break. Now during spring break, hundreds of Christian college students travel down to South Padre to verbally share the gospel, while providing those they encounter with food and transportation.

“We want to show these students that somebody cares about them in all functions, even more than just safety,” Edfeldt said. “We want to show love, engage in conversation and serve them to the best of our ability.”

More than 1,100 students from various colleges will be serving at Beach Reach this spring break. They offer free van rides from 8 p.m.-4 a.m. starting Sunday, March 11 to Thursday, March 16.

“In past years, we’ve given rides to thousands of people over the course of our time there. We know there are stupid kids who shouldn’t be driving,” Edfeldt said. “Many of them asked, ‘Why did you give up your spring break to give me a ride?’ and we just want to express to them that somebody out there cares about them.”