Fox News
April 04, 2014

Spring break exposed: Panama City Beach officials respond

Guests: Drew Whitman, Gayle Oberst, Mario Gisbert

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 4, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Welcome back to our audience edition of "Hannity." Now, you have seen from our report just how out of control things are when you let your kids head off to spring break. And while this happens all across the country, and we sent Ainsley Earhardt down to Panama City Beach, Florida, just one of the many spring break hotspots.

Joining me now for reaction for their first time on national television to what our cameras caught on tape are the police chief Drew Whitman, Mayor Gayle Oberst, and city manager Mario Gisbert is with us.

Madame Mayor, we had you on report saying you were shocked about what was going on in our report. You were really shocked?

MAYOR GAYLE OBERST, PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA: Good evening, Sean. I was just kind of shocked to see it on your show. We've been a spring break destination for about 60 years, and over the years our culture, our ways of life, our ethics have changed, and so have the spring breakers. And so this is something we're facing. It's different.

HANNITY: It's different why, because it's gotten a little more out of control? Hasn't it been good overall financially for the city? Isn't there advertising that goes with this that you want the kids to go to Panama City Beach?

OBERST: The city of Panama City Beach doesn't market the beach at all. What we do as a city is provide services and infrastructure, safety and that sort of thing. We have a tourist development council that actually advertises the beach, and they spend very little money advertising spring break. Now, the merchants who benefit from it do.

HANNITY: All right, fair enough. But you were very aware of the things that we were showing in our report. None of that should have been new to you. You're very aware of what's going on the beach, you're aware of the drinking, you're aware of the arrests, you're aware of the hundred-milers, you're aware of all of that, right?

OBERST: Yes, we are. And those are certain areas of the beach. There are other areas of the beach when so many of the things that are shown are not happening. But yes, we're not pleased with it. That's not the kind of activity we would like to see our kids do.

HANNITY: Police chief, welcome to the program. It was very obvious that you guys were undermanned and doing the best job you possibly can in what can be for you guys a pretty dangerous situation. Tell us from your perspective how bad it is dealing with this large a number of kids.

DREW WHITMAN, PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: Thanks, Sean. We deal with this -- we prepare for this all year round. This ain't something we just wake up and go to work with. After every spring break we start planning for the future spring break. I bring in mutual aid from the Baker County sheriff's office in Panama City, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco Unit from the state of Florida. So we have extra staff on hand, we have extended shifts. And this is something we're prepared for.

The crowds are large. We deal with anywhere between 200,000 and 300,000 kids during spring break, if not more. The area you went to is two of the largest nightclubs in the world, and some of that environment that happens down there in those clubs. But the action I saw in your video, that's not something we taught these kids who come to Panama City Beach. That's an environment where they came from their upbringing. This new generation --

HANNITY: I understand that. From what I was able to see, you guys are doing a great job with the resources you have under pretty difficult circumstances. Is it true every year there's usually a fatality, there's usually that one kid that ends up dying?

WHITMAN: Yes, sir. Usually we have one fatality. We had one this year that was a spring breaker involved in a DUI accident which took his life. He was a young man. Those things do happen when you have 200,000 to 300,000 kids here. Going back to law enforcement, I'm proud of all my men and women that are out there working in the trenches. I go out there and work with them myself just to give them an extra set of hands and eyes. I'm very proud of my department --

HANNITY: No, it's obvious you're doing a great job. I have no criticism whatsoever of the police department. I think you guys are doing the best you can and helping to keep the community safe and the kids who go down there. Let me ask you, city manager Mario Gisbert, let me ask you this question. Knowing this is coming every year, is there anything you think the city ought to be doing to help protect them more, maybe giving the police department more resources, maybe letting parents know a little bit more what's happening?

MARIO GISBERT, CITY MANAGER, PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA: Some of the things we really like to do is inform the students that are here to travel in groups. A single person walking alone is always in danger of something going wrong in any situation, in any city, in any situation. So we encourage the students to walk in pairs at minimum or groups, back each other up. You want to travel safely. We have officers -- I've talked to spring breakers that have said we don't have to turn around more than twice to find an officer somewhere. So we want to make sure they can see there is safety within eyesight.

HANNITY: Then you have to worry -- I know, chief, you have to worry about these hundred-milers, these guys coming in just to prey on those kids. That's a big problem, right?

WHITMAN: It is. They follow the parties. They know that we're going to have large groups of kids behind certain locations at certain times of day or night, but that's something we prepare for. We understand they're coming. We put extra officers out there. I'm very proactive. I've been in this agency for 23 years but I've been in law enforcement for 27 years. It's something we plan for. We know they're going to be here Friday and Saturday nights. We have large groups of kids down here. They come down here to prey on spring breakers or to follow the party. So my officers get out of their cars, we walk amongst them. They know when they turn around they'll see a police officer either in a blue uniform or a green one from the Bay County Sheriff's office.

HANNITY: Maybe I'll be down there next year and do a live show from the beach. Maybe we'll see you then. Thank you all for being with us.

OBERST: Thank you.

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