Harrison County

Biloxi mayor: We cannot have a repeat of 2017 spring break

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said Tuesday the spring break weekend April 7-9 was far from being safe and beautiful for residents and visitors.

“We cannot and will not have a repeat of what was experienced,” he promised at the Biloxi City Council meeting.

Gilich said the Biloxi Black Spring Break events bring “a positive economic impact,” but crowds swelled from about 35,000 last year to 60,000 this year, he said.

“That’s about a 70 percent increase,” he said. But calls for police service jumped from 323 last year to 1,096 this year — a 300 percent increase, he said.

“The types of calls for service indicate that a ‘bad behavior’ element was added to ‘traffic and trash,’” he said. “A conclusion can be drawn that Biloxi and its infrastructure may have reached capacity.”

James Crowell, president of the Biloxi NAACP, compared the problems with trash at spring break to Mardi Gras and the traffic issues to Cruisin’ The Coast.

“We’ve got issues, we’ve got to address them,” he said.

Gilich said everyone is welcome in Biloxi, but the city will take corrective action, “And we will not tolerate ‘unacceptable behavior’ from anyone.”

The mayor said the city will ask the Coast Coliseum staff for help communicating the city’s expectations to event sponsors.

Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said spring break in the last few years was mostly a traffic event, but this year they saw more bad behavior. He said the event cost the city about $30,000 in overtime pay.

He mentioned there were two or three reports of people driving down the road throwing out money. “They’re trying to incite fighting over this money,” he said.

Almost 72,000 vehicles passed in front of the Coliseum over the weekend, he said.

Councilman Felix Gines said he understands a contract already has been signed for spring break concerts to return to the Coliseum next year. The concerts are the centerpiece of a weekend that draws people to South Mississippi and stretches along the beach road from Courthouse Road in Gulfport to downtown Biloxi.

“Our goal is to look at the good, the bad and the ugly,” Gilich said, “manage the bad and eliminate the ugly.”

He also said the city is developing surveys for residents and business owners to get recommendations and feedback.