Extra eyes come into focus for Gasparilla events - FOX 13 News

Extra eyes come into focus for Gasparilla events

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These cameras were installed in preparation for last summer's RNC; they came in handy for Saturday's events. These cameras were installed in preparation for last summer's RNC; they came in handy for Saturday's events.
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Hundreds of thousands watched as the Pirate Ship "Jose Gasparilla" made its way into Hillsborough Bay.

Saturday was a wild and festive day that kept an army of law enforcement officers busy.

Incident numbers provided by the Tampa Police Department seem relatively low considering the number of people packed into one area of Tampa.

According to a TPD report 131 alcohol citations were handed-out and 68 adults were arrested; eight on felony charges.

A total of 21 juveniles were charged with underage drinking.

Tampa Police officials say their Zero Tolerance Education Program must be working. This is the first year they didn't find any younger teens under the influence and most underage drinkers were between the ages of 17 and 20.

Early in the parade there was a brief tense moment when a suspicious package was discovered but it was nothing.

Saturday's 2013 Gasparilla Invasion was Tampa Bay's biggest party.

"We love it, it's amazing!," shouted one woman who was attending the event for the very first time.

"Arrrrrgggghhh!," said a group of pirates with their wenches with swords raised in unison.

There were also plenty of characters on a quest to collect as many treasures as they could.

"The beads," explained one young wench. "It's the beads of course."

Because of the family environment the wenches chose to yell loudly as opposed to lifting their shirts.

It's a good thing too, because chances are, if someone had done so two Tampa Police Officers monitoring all the action from a room downtown, might have caught it on-camera.

"These were bought specifically for the Republican National Convention," said Detective Mike Merritt, who was monitoring the feeds on Saturday. "This is the first big event we've had since then."

Merritt said this year - thanks to lots of loot left over from the RNC – new bicycles and security cameras assisted law enforcement with crowd control and other such emergencies such as a missing child.

"They have the ability to immediately go back in time with the recorded video, see if they can see where that child was when they were last seen and maybe follow from there," Merritt explained.

With the simple sweep of the mouse, TPD Officers April Larson and Darlene Cardoso can adjust their view any way they need to, zoom in or zoom out and pinpoint trouble in real time.

They have one ear to scanner traffic and both eyes on what's being talked about. They even spotted a suspicious package on Bayshore.

"It turned out to be nothing, but our camera monitors, they happened to notice a backpack that had been left kind of away from anybody," Merritt said. "They watched it for a while and nobody came to it."

They alerted an officer nearby who found out it belonged to a security guard working in the area.

After the parade ended the party continued at Curtis Hixon Park with a big pirate music fest. And just like on Bayshore Boulevard, plenty of cameras left over from the RNC, were watching everything that went on throughout the evening.

Bands rocked it out and closed the day the same way it started, with a bang.

"I think it gets better and better every year!," said a Bay area woman whose been coming to Gasparilla for over a decade.

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