The first thing Sheriff George Payne told the supervisors is that public safety was maintained this weekend in Harrison County. Payne says a historic first occurred during the three day party; law enforcement came together to make sure everyone followed the rules so things wouldn't get out of hand.Sheriff Payne couldn't say enough about the plan that officers used during Black Spring Break that he says made the party a success.
"There were some glitches with the traffic flows but when you have that large a crowd in this small infrastructure we're trying to work in, I can't tell ya how proud I am of all the law enforcement in South Mississippi and the job they did." A job officers had to do sooner than expected was to divert traffic off of Highway 90, north to the interstate. That caught a lot of local people off guard...and the sheriff says he knows they were inconvenienced.
The sheriff says if spring break returns next year the plan will be different. "We now have looked at that, critiqued it somewhat and if this happens again next year we're gonna have a system in place where local people who are caught up in diversions, we'll have a way of identifying them so that they're not inconvenienced anymore than they normally would be," Payne says.
Supervisors' President Larry Benefield says the bigger issue is no one was hurt in the huge crowds, and there were no serious accidents in all the traffic. "Hopefully some young folks had a decent time but the biggest thing is that we controlled the situation and that was the task that was there."
Controlling the situation meant Harrison County spent about $400,000 to prepare for the big party. That money paid for deputies' overtime, portable toilets and radios so officers could communicate. Benefield says "If we hadn't of spent the money, if we hadn't of put the manpower on the street, then we couldn't have had the organization that we had so yes from that standpoint, it's definitely worth it."