TAMPA, Fla. — Safety preparations continue into the weekend for the return of Gasparilla after COVID-19 concerns canceled festivities last year. But, preparations with dozens of agencies have already been underway for months, according to Tampa Interim Police Chief Ruben Delgado.
"We didn’t have it last year, so we are expecting bigger crowds," Delgado said.
The city of Tampa states it is anticipating a crowd of about 300,000 people.
Delgado said an ample amount of officers will be on-scene for the events. More than 300 deputies are expected to be at both parades, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Law enforcement agencies have been looking at factors, including the safest traffic routes, any potential threats, and reviewing emergency plans.
"We have plenty of officers for security, whether it’s in the land, in the water, in the air. However, we rely heavily on the patrons in this parade. So, if you see something, say something," Delgado said.
They stress people attending Gasparilla can also take steps to look out for the safety of the community.
"This is a community effort, not just law enforcement, so we ask any parade-goers, if you see something suspicious, let us know," said Amanda Granit, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
First responders recommend taking several steps to ensure safety at the event. Knowing directions and traffic detours ahead of time will ensure a smoother experience for all, they said.
They recommend taking a picture of your child with their costume should you be separated from them. In addition, keep a number or form of identification with them so that law enforcement can track you down.
In addition, they recommend having a meeting location if separated since Granit said cell service can be spotty with such a large turnout.
Law enforcement agencies also note there will still be first responders available for incidents taking place outside of Gasparilla at the time of the event.