(CHARLOTTE COUNTY) Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell announced that CCSO is participating with the Florida Sheriffs Task Force in “Operation Dry Spring.” The project began today and runs through Apr. 7 in conjunction with the spring break schedules of most public and private schools in Florida. The FSA Task Force launched this operation this morning aimed at protecting the safety of Florida’s youth.

This time of year, Florida students and out of state students take a timeout from their studies to enjoy their first break of the semester. Spring break is also the time when some of these students, the majority of them under 21 years of age, choose to drink alcohol and experiment with illegal drugs.

Sheriff Prummell said, “CCSO units will be beefing up patrols on our main beach areas from Englewood to Boca Grande and in the Charlotte Harbor area. Additional patrols will also be checking places where youth hang out in Charlotte County. Underage drinking, smoking, including smoking of marijuana and synthetic marijuana will be targeted.”

The use of drugs and alcohol by youth lead to poor decision making, and in turn to emergency medical situations such as overdoses and alcohol-related injuries. In 2010, nearly 190,000 individuals under the age of 21 visited an emergency room for injuries or conditions connected to the use of alcohol. The use of synthetic drugs such as bath salts and spice is on the rise with more than 7,000 reported incidents in 2011, compared to just over 3,000 in 2010.

“Underage use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs has always been a point of concern for families as well as Florida’s Sheriffs,” said Polk County Sheriff and Task Force Chair Grady Judd. “If Florida’s youth cannot make the right decisions, they will be spending spring break at their Sheriff’s office.”