To ensure the continued safety and security of residents and visitors, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford and the cities of Panama City and Panama City Beach have established a Special Event Zone, pursuant to Florida State Statute 316.1891, as of Friday, March 24 at 8 a.m. until 4 a.m. on Monday, March 27. The zone includes the areas highlighted on the map in the link below. Warning signs are posted along each point of entry and exit of the Special Event Zone.
Within the parameters of the Special Event Zone, all traffic violation fines are subject to enhanced penalties, including doubled fines during the time the zone is in effect. Vehicles are subject to being towed and impounded for up to 72 hours. Law enforcement is authorized to enforce occupancy limits on public or private property. Also, any reasonable costs incurred by supplemental law enforcement, firefighter, EMS or paramedics, and sanitation services related to working any unpermitted special event within the Special Event Zone will be billed to the promoter of the unpermitted special event.
Interactive map of the zones, visit this link.
The information below has been provided by the Bay County Sheriff's Office.
How does a Special Event Zone affect me and why does Bay County need one?
To understand this, it’s important to remember what happened in 2022. Promoted as a “Takeover of PCB,” the weekend of March 26, 2022 was a weekend of disruption on Panama City Beach with shootings and riots. Businesses were forced to close as parking lots were trashed and business interrupted. Law enforcement made more than 160 arrests and seized 100 illegal guns. This year, law enforcement has been monitoring social media closely to determine what is being planned for Bay County. We have found that the same promoter of last year’s “Takeover of PCB” is attempting to coordinate some events here again this year. Although we wish we could, we can’t predict the exact size or impact these events will have this year. It was decided to be proactive and do what could be done to minimize potential impact. The Bay County Sheriff's Office coordinated with the the Panama City Beach Police and the Panama City Police to establish Special Event Zones within each jurisdiction.
What is a Special Event Zone?
A geographical location within which traffic violation fines can be doubled, illegally parked vehicles can be towed and impounded for up to 72 hours, and promoters of unpermitted events can be made to repay the costs caused by the event back to the community. These costs would otherwise be paid by the taxpayer. There will be signs posted 24 hours in advance that show where the zone is located. If you do not violate traffic laws within the zone and do not hold an unpermitted event, YOU WILL NOT ENCOUNTER LAW ENFORCEMENT.
What is an unpermitted event?
Because holding a large event stresses community resources like fire, law enforcement, and clean-up, there are requirements a promoter must meet to hold the large event. Requirements that protect the taxpayer. Requirements to pay for a permit and pay for law enforcement to work extra hours to provide security. Those are just a few. These requirements are why we have seen a trend in seemingly spontaneous unpermitted events during Spring Break. These parties are held in parking lots, by the side of the road, and on the beach. The promoters of these unpermitted events do not want to share their profits with the community, they just want to make money and go. The promoters use social media platforms to communicate with people who then come to the event and clog the roads around the event with no warning to law enforcement. Law enforcement must then struggle to suddenly handle an influx of hundreds or thousands of people in a tiny area not designed to handle that many cars. As a result, some people trying to attend the unpermitted event are caught in a traffic standstill. In the past, they have simply turned off their cars and left them in the middle of a roadway to walk to the event. This means a traffic nightmare now for HOURS for the year-round residents who are trying to go to work, go shopping, otherwise live their regular lives.
Will a Special Event Zone restrict people driving in it or through it?
No. You can still go to work at normal times, and you can drive through the zone at will. YOU DO NOT NEED A PASS. If you violate a traffic law as you drive through the zone (if you drive, you know what a traffic violation is), then you could get a ticket at double the normal amount. So, like every other day of the year, do not violate traffic laws and you will have no encounter with law enforcement.
Is there a curfew within the Special Event Zone?
Does law enforcement believe there are going to be dangerous events within our county this weekend?
Law enforcement is using every technological resource to anticipate what may happen. Information we have gathered has indicated previous promoters of last year’s “Takeover” weekend are attempting to schedule something again this year. Events taking place during this year’s Spring Break in other parts of the state (like Miami Beach) are being evaluated, as well. And yes, some good old-fashioned cop techniques are used, too, to see what the buzz on the street is about the upcoming weekend. We do our best, but can’t know the future, just prepare for it.
By executing a Special Event Zone with higher fines, the ability to tow cars and impound for up to 72 hours and hold the promoters of unpermitted events responsible for the increase in cost to handle an event, law enforcement is keeping ALL RESIDENTS within the Special Event Zone and outside of it, too, safer during Spring Break.