SIESTA KEY, Fla. -- Over the weekend, a 20-year-old spring breaker on Siesta Beach was arrested for shining a laser at a sheriff’s office helicopter. Now many wonder if the incident is part of a bigger trend of one of America's top beaches becoming a party destination.
Around 11:45 p.m. Friday, deputies say Castaneda Aroldo pointed a laser pointer at the aviation unit while deputies say they were trying to control more than 500 hundred young adults on the beach.
Siesta Key Beach is among the top beaches in the country. It's known for its beautiful scenery and family-friendly atmosphere. But all that is beginning to change.
Ashley Blackburn is among the many high school and college spring breakers who are now flocking to the area. She says the beach's recent #1 honor has been one of the main draws. "We started looking at places to go, and it looked like the most beautiful-est place to go, so we chose Siesta."
Some say Siesta Key's transition from a family-friendly environment to a spring break attraction has reached an all-time high, with those who frequent the area saying it's now impossible to not notice the difference. "When I started coming back in 2006, it was very, very quiet; and we seemed to bring the average age down to about 70, and in years recent it’s definitely become a younger go-to place," says visitor Kristen Powell.
But not everyone is as open to the younger generation. "This spring break crowd is going out of control. At night there are hundreds of teenagers around the beach…it’s like Girls Gone Wild,” says Beverly O’Rourke.
Many say last Friday’s situation was example of things getting out of hand. According to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office more than 500 young people were gathered in at public beach area, and several fights broke out.
In 2012, a similar gathering resulted in a brawl that landed five spring breakers in jail, and several others needing medical attention.
That’s a scene that some "snowbirds" say is becoming far too common. “A lot of drinking, a lot of teenagers, they come out at night like the vampires," says O’Rourke.
But the spring breakers ABC 7 spoke to say those are just isolated incidents.
And while they are aware of the stigma associated with the younger crowd, they say their goal isn't to cause trouble, but instead have a good time. "It’s really pretty, and a lot of fun; families should still come here, but I think it should be a spring break place," says Selena Kraai.