TAMPA (FOX 13) - Law enforcement in Tampa Bay prepared for a potentially busy New Year's Eve weekend, with events scheduled throughout the area.
One of the largest events is planned in downtown Tampa, which will be patrolled by a task force that Tampa police, Hillsborough County deputies, Florida Highway Patrol and federal authorities.
Cpl. Larry McKinnon, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office, said this is the type or large-scale celebration for which law enforcement prepares all year long.
"We are, in general, high alert 365 days a year in the world we live in today. That really is the safest and best way to maintain public safety," he said, comparing it to large sporting events, concerts and festivals like Gasparilla. "We all have a network where we share information, we'll share intel and if we get information that we suspect is going to be a problem, then we'll take our assets that we need to address that problem and put them in place and deal with it."
On top of that, deputies will have their ears to the air, listening for celebratory gunfire, which can cause serious injuries or even kill unsuspecting victims on the ground.
The department will be using its "ShotSpotter" technology, which senses when a gun has been fired and can pinpoint where it happened. ShotSpotter can also tell the difference between gunfire and fireworks and notify deputies in 30 seconds.
"We're asking people: keep their guns inside, save them for the gun range. Don't take the guns and put them in the air and shoot those bullets off. Those bullets have to come down. They're going to either destroy property, they're going to hit somebody," McKinnon said. "We hope that we don't have to arrest anyone for this. We've been very successful in the past few years. But there's always that one person that's going to get out there and try to test the system and this case we have a lot of technology that's out there and if we find out that you're doing it, we're going to end up having to arrest you."
Deputies will also be cracking down on drinking and driving; DUI patrols are planned from Friday through New Year's Day.