Spring break and St. Patrick’s Day are both holidays usually celebrated with some responsible drinking. Okaloosa County authorities say there’s nothing responsible about underage drinking. Deputies in Destin say the consequences could be deadly.
The numbers are somewhat shocking. Before any of Friday’s arrests, 156 people were arrested for underage drinking so far this year. That number rose to 16 before 8 PM Friday night.
“Just driving through the neighborhoods like this that have high foot traffic is a very productive way of catching them,” said Sgt. Joseph Jason Fulgham, as he drove CW 55/News 5’s Hayley Minogue through some of the neighborhoods near the beach in Destin.
The department is sending a clear message.
“They just sit on the bus until it’s time to go to the county jail,” Sgt. Fulgham said of the underage drinkers they arrest.
Spring breakers may think it’s harmless but Sgt. Fulgham has seen firsthand the dangers that accompany teen drinking.
“Any of the rapes, any of the sexual batteries are bad,” Sgt. Fulgham said of the particularly bad offenses that have stuck with him over the years.
Sgt. Fulgham spotted a group of people he believes to be underage, so we stopped to talk to them. The sheriff’s office doesn’t show faces in their social media posts about underage drinking, so we won’t either.
He asked them how old they were, and what was in their cups. Two of the men admitted to being underage. Sgt. Fulgham poured out their drinks, called for transport, and arrested the two underage drinkers.
They take them to the holding bus at Henderson Beach State Park where they’ll wait until the bus is full before heading to the county jail. For those who say just let the kids have fun, Sgt. Fulgham says, “Let the other kids know that hey, this is taking place.”
“It’s serious,” he continued. “We are going to arrest you. You are going to go to the county jail. You’re going to stay there until you can bond out. Hopefully, it prevents them from doing the same.”‘
The people arrested, and their friends, all declined interviews.
The cost of bailing someone out of jail for underage drinking is $270.