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Leave Gasparilla With Beads, Not in Handcuffs, Police Say

The annual Gasparilla pirate parade will be held next weekend in downtown Tampa, a short drive from New Tampa.

In effort to combat underage drinking and emphasize public safety during the Gasparilla Pirate Fest next weekend, Tampa officials unveiled a "zero tolerance" campaign on Thursday afternoon.

"We want everybody to go home with a neckful of beads and not handcuffs," said Police Chief Jane Castor.

The annual event is sure to attracts residents far and wide, including those from New Tampa.

During a press conference at the Tampa Police headquarters on Franklin Street, Castor, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia talked of plans to use equipment from the Republican National Convention last summer to keep attendees of the parade along Bayshore Boulevard safe, and methods they implemented to make sure students don't drink during the celebration.

"We're using RNC equipment bike teams on the route to maneuver through crowds faster than officers on foot," said Castor. "Officers will also be on Segways."

Another RNC-related perk law enforcement officials plan to use: Closed-circuit TV cameras that will be activated along the parade route.

In addition to RNC equipment, Elia and Buckhorn recorded a call to all Hillsborough high schools with high-school aged children about their "Responsibility Matters" educational campaign, which aims to stop underage drinking. Public service announcements, digital billboards and posters at local businesses were also utilized to stress the importance of the program.

A video of the police department's zero tolerance program was sent to all middle and high schools in Hillsborough, University of Tampa, Hillsborough Community College, University of South Florida, University of Central Florida and Stetson University College of Law.

"We want the adults and the parents to make sure they have a good time (at Gasparilla)," Buckhorn said. "If they make a bad decision, it could impact them for a long, long time."

The police department on Thursday also released statistics that said 23 more arrests were made in 2012 during Gasparilla than during 2011 for open container, underage drinking, BUI and other charges.

Meanwhile, Buckhorn said the "zero tolerance" policy will be in full effect during the festivities.

"We will not look the other way," he said. "We will enforce it."

What do you think about the zero tolerance plan for Gasparilla? Tell us in the comments.

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