Welcome

This is the blog for Robert Vincent, Chief of Police for the Gulfport (Florida) Police Department. Please feel free to leave comments, but keep in mind that anything appearing on this page may be subject to retention and disclosure in accordance with Florida public records law.

Please keep your posts clean and respectful. Comments are subject to review, and I do not permit lewdness, obscenity, or personal attacks.







Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Boondocking in Gulfport?

 

We’ve had some recent questions about overnight camping, particularly at the beach. What’s the scoop? Is Gulfport the new best place for van life?

Unfortunately, no matter how you look at it, the answer is no.

First up—the beach is closed every night from midnight to 4:00 AM. This includes the parking lot. While this does not prohibit someone from parking a vehicle there overnight, it would prohibit someone from occupying said vehicle during those hours.

Sec. 17-21. - Hours of operation: All parks are open to the public every day of the year from 4:00 a.m. to midnight. The city council may establish alternative hours of operation for each park or section thereof. All such alternative hours of operation shall be posted at each park to which said hours apply.

Given this, one might logically conclude that it’s okay to park a camper at the beach during all other hours. Sorry but this one doesn’t work either. Gulfport requires a city-issued permit to “place” a recreational vehicle anywhere in the entire city. Except for special events where this ordinance is waived, I can assure you that the city will not issue a permit for public, overnight camping.

 

Sec. 21-2. - Permit to maintain recreational vehicle; required: It shall be unlawful to place, keep or maintain any recreational vehicle upon any lot or parcel of ground within the city, except in a designated recreational vehicle park, unless such person shall first obtain from the city manager, or his or her designee, a permit to do so. For the purpose of this chapter, recreational vehicle means any structure intended for or capable of human habitation, mounted upon wheels and capable of being moved from place to place, either by its own power or by power supplied by some vehicle attached or to be attached thereto.

So what do we do about it? As with most police response to non-life-safety code violations, we prioritize enforcement based on calls for service. If a small, class-b camper van is taking up one parking space for a day trip to the beach, we will probably leave them alone unless someone calls to complain. On the other hand, that same van would likely get a knock on the door if we find it there, occupied, in the middle of the night. Also, if you decide to park your 36-foot class-a rig across six parking spaces during a special event, you will quickly be asked to move along.

We also have to establish that a vehicle is “capable of human habitation” before we can declare it a violation. I would say that it would have to have a kitchenette, a bed, and a toilet at minimum. If we can’t tell by looking through an open door or windows, we have to assume it’s just a van and not a recreational vehicle.

If you do wish to make a complaint about any suspected violations, please note that Florida law prohibits enforcement based on anonymous tips. Before we can take any official action, we will need your name and address as part of the record.

 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Police Boat and Equipment Budget

 

This narrative is intended to address some concerns recently raised by residents in an online discussion about our patrol boat.

Our Zodiac LE2400 patrol vessel was acquired new in 2013. It is a rigid inflatable boat (RIB), which means that it has an inflatable tube that surrounds the fiberglass hull. We chose this design after careful and thorough review of multiple options made specifically for law enforcement use. The Zodiac RIB platform is extremely popular in this line of work because it is less likely to result in injury or damage during encounters with other boats on the water. It is also easier to get into the boat because the inflatable tube (with grab ropes) is actually at the water line.

Our vessel is and always has been equipped with every piece of safety equipment mandated by law and by agency policy. Due to the low freeboard, a ladder is not required. Since we have had this boat in operation, we have never had any concerns raised about people having difficulty getting into the boat until Marine Patrol Officer Ross sent an email to his supervisor on 5/19/21 describing a recent rescue where an exhausted person could not climb into the boat. Since then, staff has been researching and evaluating options priced anywhere from $50 to $750. A selection will be made, and the necessary hardware will be ordered when the unit supervisor returns from an out of state trip later this week.

The eight-year-old patrol boat is not due for replacement for another 2-5 years. While we replace patrol cars every 3-5 years, the operational lifespan is typically longer for watercraft. Not only is the daily use much less, but it is easier and less costly to update worn parts on a boat. For example, our vessel has had both the motor and the inflatable tube replaced during its time in service. New, updated electronics were ordered last month, and are expected to be installed in the coming weeks. The current annual budget for fuel and maintenance of the police boat is $15,500, and we have the ability to request additional funding if there are any unforeseen major expenses.