By Rachel Brown Hackney
Spring break has been well underway on the Key, Sgt. Paul Cernansky, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation at Siesta Public Beach, has reported.
“If you guys haven’t noticed the traffic, we definitely did this past weekend at the beach,” he said during the quarterly meeting of Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce members.
Apparently, Cernansky has taken some time to delve into Siesta history, because he pointed out that Sheriff’s Office personnel has been handling certain spring break issues for decades, including complaints about trying to find parking spaces. “Same as in the ’70s, and before that,” he said.
Further, as he has explained to Siesta Key Association (SKA) members, Cernansky told the Chamber members that he has been using data in an effort to adjust the scheduling of shifts and the number of officers on the Key. “We more or less have doubled our presence out here on the island,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office philosophy since Sheriff Tom Knight took over in 2009 has been intelligence-led policing, Cernansky pointed out. Cernansky has been following that approach on the Key. “The lack of crime is what we want to have.”
Although the number of people on the beach already had increased by mid-February, Cernansky reported during the SKA’s March Annual Breakfast Meeting, that the official Spring Break Operations Plan for the Sheriff’s Office began on March 1. The department will have double staffing coverage on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, he added.
The Mounted Patrol officers also will be working full-time on the Key, Cernansky told the Chamber members. “All of our resources will all be out here to make sure that everything goes smoothly.”
Michael Shay, maintenance manager for Siesta Village, took the opportunity on to ask Cernansky about a thought Shay had been pondering: “Speaking of spring break, with the damage done by Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle, are we anticipating more spring breakers?”
“I would,” Cernansky replied. Given the fact that red tide deterred visitors last year, he continued, “I think people really want to double-down on their spring break experience. I would expect to see more people, and it’s great for all the merchants.”
Nonetheless, Cernansky said, the more people, the more traffic.
Sheriff’s Office reminding everyone to lock vehicles
“We most recently had a rash of vehicle burglaries,” Sgt. Paul Cernansky told Siesta Chamber members during their quarterly meeting. The Sheriff’s Office can do only so much about that type of crime, he pointed out. “We can only tell people so many times to lock their car doors.”
“Vehicle burglary” refers to a situation in which a person enters a vehicle that does not belong to the person and then steals or tries to steal items. Officers are working to try to determine whether they can catch the perpetrators, Cernansky pointed out.
Still, he stressed that he welcomes the support of business owners in reminding customers about locking vehicles.
Is the Sip-N-Cycle legal?
During the January Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, Sgt. Paul Cernansky, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the Key, fielded questions about a new means of tourist transport — the Sip-N-Cycle.
Members of the audience questioned the legality of the vehicle, as people riding it typically are drinking beverages other than water and lemonade, shall we say.
It took some digging into the Florida Statutes, but Cernansky has reported to both SKA and Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce members that the vehicle is considered a “commercial mega-cycle” under state law. “It’s exempt from the open container laws,” he told the Chamber members during their Feb. 20 quarterly meeting.
Additionally, Cernansky said, the vehicle does not have to have to be registered with the state “because it is mostly human-powered and it has a route that it goes on.”
He wanted to make sure island business owners are aware of the Sip-N-Cycle’s status, he said, in the event customers ask them questions.
Based on the Sip-N-Cycle website, and a YouTube video, the vehicle loads and unloads passengers at Blasé Café in Siesta Village.