TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Thousands of children and families packed the fairgrounds for the Florida State Fair Friday, and among those in the crowd were law enforcement and volunteers to help keep everyone safe.
It’s well-known as one of the busiest nights at the fair, and now Student Day comes marked with a heavy law enforcement presence.
Before 14-year-old Andrew Joseph was hit and killed crossing I-4 in 2014, he was detained then kicked out of the fair on Student Day. Five years after his death, people who disagree with how law enforcement handled that situation protested Friday afternoon, calling for justice.
“Mr. and Mrs. Joseph have continued to fight for justice for their son Andrew Joseph. As of today, there has been no one held accountable and no one wants to take responsibility for detaining him, taking pictures of him and releasing him without a parent phone call,” said demonstrator Veronica Zubia.
To make sure that doesn’t happen again, small teams of Tampa police officers, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies and volunteers from the community meet up and walk the fairgrounds every year since Joseph’s death.
“I work in the community a lot, so I want to make sure that if I see somebody or a student they recognize me and they feel safe seeing that we are interacting with the sheriff’s office or even the Tampa Police Department,” said Monica Rodriguez, a volunteer with the community action team working with the sheriff’s office.
While the teams patrol the fair as extra eyes and ears, they have new features to add another layer of security.
“The only difference this year is the observation towers, the additional cameras to have a better look from above and be able to monitor the crowd,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister of Hillsborough County.
They are changing not just how they handle security but the dynamic at the fair.
“Our ejection numbers, our arrest numbers have continued to decline every year since, so we know it’s working,” said Chronister.
The sheriff said they only had to ask one person to leave on Student Day.