SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – If you’ve been out to Siesta Key in the last week, you’ve probably noticed a big increase in crowds and traffic as the town braces for Spring Break.
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, visitors are flocking to Florida from all across the United States. To prepare, deputies with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office are beefing up their presence on the key.
Members of the traffic unit and mounted patrol unit will be out in addition to deputies from the Siesta Key substation.
Sgt. Arik Smith says so far, COVID-19 doesn’t seem to have made an impact on crowds.
“We are expecting a lot of people, just a normal Spring Break,” said Sgt. Smith. “We get a lot of people down here every year … It is something that we deal with every year whether we are an open state or closed state or however it is. So far, we have seen about the normal amount of people that we would expect to see you down here and we are expecting just the same amount of crowds that we normally do out here which is quite a few.”
The biggest issue deputies see is related to traffic. There are less than 1,000 parking spots for the public.
“If on average people bring about three or four people per car, we are looking at 3,000 or 4,000 people that show up just to the public beach. So that is our biggest issue,” said the sergeant.
For some longtime residents on the key, the biggest adjustment other than the traffic, is the noise that comes along with the younger crowds.
Jean Cannon has lived on Siesta Key for 24 years. In that time, she says her neighborhood has transformed into a hotspot for short term rentals and hotel houses. She says two rental properties right across the street from her home can sleep around 24 people each. During spring break, she says that means a whole lot of extra noise.
“It is a constant amount of noise and disruption. Around 10 o’clock, I usually have to close the house up, put the air-conditioning on and that helps break the noise,” Cannon said. “There are times past 10 o’clock closer to 1 a.m. when I have had to get up and call the police and have them go over and break up the party and make them go inside. You hate to be an old curmudgeon, so I try not to do that, but at times it finally gets to be too much and I need to get my rest and I also need to do my work and it is disruptive.”
8 On Your Side asked Sarasota County deputies how they plan on handling late night parties at rental properties should they get out of control.
“We handle it just like we handle every other call for service we get. We get calls for service for noise complaints and disturbances. If somebody’s having a large party and a neighbor is disturbed by it, they can call us. We encourage them to call us. We are here to make sure that everybody has a good time and does it safely,” Smith said.