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Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay brings DUI arrests amid pandemic

By The Numbers

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Some sheriff’s offices in Tampa Bay saw a spike in DUI arrests during Memorial Day weekend celebrations while others saw significant decreases.

Over the three-day weekend, the Polk County Sherrif’s Office more than doubled the arrests made during Memorial Day weekend in 2019. There were five arrests last year and 11 this past weekend.

Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol also reported a significant increase in arrests in at least three counties. In Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, the FHP saw a 23.5 percent increase in DUI arrests since last year. Officers say they went from four in 2019 to 17 this year.

Hillsborough deputies made more than 600 traffic stops as Floridians flocked to celebrations.

HCSO reports that 34 people were arrested during what deputies called “Operation Surf N’ Turf.” Of those, 23 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence and three DUI arrests involved wrong-way drivers.

“Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle or a vessel under the influence is extremely dangerous, not only to the person driving but everyone else around them,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “During Operation Surf N’ Turf, we wanted to make sure deputies were visible to everyone out celebrating the holiday in hopes of deterring people from driving under the influence and quickly catching those who chose to break the law. After taking 30 intoxicated people off of our roadways and waterways, I believe this operation was a success.”

But it isn’t all bad news.

Though the beaches in Pinellas County reached capacity early each day during the weekend, Pinellas County deputies saw decreased DUI arrests by nearly half this Memorial Day weekend, going from 11 in 2019 to six this year.

More boaters also meant a busy weekend for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which responded to 18 search and rescues, 12 BUIs and five boating accidents. But those numbers were down from 2019. Last year, FWC responded to 14 search and rescues, 21 BUIs and 10 boating accidents.

Pasco County deputies also saw a decreased number of DUIs, with only three arrests compared to the 11 arrests last year.

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