PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Since 2009, Panama City Beach Police and Water Rescue Officials have had the ability to ticket and even arrest people swimming when double red flags are flying.
Thursday, the City Council passed an ordinance authorizing City Code Enforcement Officers to issue civil citations to people swimming under double red flag conditions.
The decision comes after the City Council recognized lifeguards and police officials have recently been overwhelmed.
“They’re stretched to the max and putting an Enforcement Officer on the beach to help assist with writing citations, ensures officers won’t be pulled from areas they are being utilized,” said Councilman Paul Casto.
The citations can go up to 500 dollars, and even result in an arrest.
Panama City Beach Safety Director Wil Spivey says that lifeguards have needed this help for quite some time.
“We have a lot of folks and beach to cover, so we’ve needed the help and I think this will be a good approach to this,” he said.
Spivey says while the first line of defense in water safety and drownings prevention is education, the message doesn’t always sink in.
“Unfortunately, there are some folks that don’t want to listen to education and prevention tips and constantly put themselves or others in harm’s way, now we will have a tool to encourage them otherwise,” he said.
City Code Enforcement Officers receive the authority to begin writing tickets immediately after Thursday’s vote.