New beach district commander Lt. William Valveri says the spring break season is calmer than it was decades ago, with traffic the number one issue today.
CLEARWATER BEACH — With the 2014 spring break season almost halfway over, major incidents have been kept to a minimum so far, a city police official said.
Lt. William Valveri, a 28-year department veteran who took over as beach district commander late last month, said his officers have answered the typical spring break calls related to public intoxication.
But he was happy to report that the major problem beach patrols are facing this year is that of traffic and roadway congestion, not the more serious, violent incidents that often plague other popular spring break destinations.
“I worked on the beach early in my career and then again as a supervisor four years ago, and we get the same type of spring break issues then as we do today,” Valveri said. “It’s actually tamer now — we got a lot more kids back then. But having fewer mom-and-pop motels and more large, corporate hotels has had an impact on the type of visitors who come here.
“Our biggest problem is traffic. There’s little available parking and only so many roads, so it takes a long time to get on and off the beach.”
Valveri advises beach residents to get their errands done early in the morning at this time of year, and he urges visitors to be patient while crossing the Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge from the mainland, especially on weekends.
He also said his department always increases the size and scope of its patrols during spring break so it can reduce the number of incidents and deal with any problems that arise.
“Our numbers always increase significantly during spring break to meet the demand,” Valveri said. “And we use all kinds of police tactics, not just officers in uniform.”
He said things have gone relatively smoothly, “knock on wood,” at the midway point of the department’s spring break calendar, which runs from March 1-31.
He attributes the lack of major incidents and the relative calm of Clearwater Beach’s spring break season to one important factor.
“Clearwater Beach is marketed as a family-friendly destination, and the kids know that,” he said. “I’m not saying we don’t have issues, but we’re not marketed as a typical spring break destination.
“It’s more of a laid-back, kick-back-for-a-week type of place. But we’re prepared for whatever happens.”