Pinellas News

Tarpon marks Orthodox Easter without incident

TARPON SPRINGS - Amid this weekend’s Eastern Orthodox Easter celebrations, revelers appeared to forego one tradition, to the relief of Tarpon Springs public safety officials.
The detonation of homemade firecrackers that vary in size and strength can oftentimes be part of the festivities, notably following the Easter Eve liturgy.
Typically, the devices, known in the community as “Greek bombs,” go off without incident other than noise, but last year showed their inherent danger.
Just after midnight last Eastern Orthodox Easter Eve, a bomb was detonated on the roof of a vacant building next to The Zone Lounge, a downtown nightclub. The explosion destroyed a small shed, blew out windows of an adjacent apartment building and caused other damage at nearby buildings.
Projectile glass and debris resulted in two people being injured.
The Tarpon Springs Police Department’s report of the 2012 blast stated that it was “dumb luck” nobody was seriously injured or killed by the blast.
Rather than rely on any type of good fortune this year, Capt. Jeffrey Young said the police department took preventative steps in the community and had an increased presence throughout the city Saturday night into Sunday morning.
“There was an increased presence but we also worked in close cooperation with the church to get the message out that that’s not being part of the celebration,” Young said, speaking of the assistance gained from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral leaders. “Those types of acts are not what are desired.”
Young would not discuss how large of a stepped-up law enforcement presence the department issued over the weekend, but there was no repeat of last year’s close call. Some people attending events Saturday night said they saw representatives of various law enforcement agencies on hand.
Around Easter Eve midnight and later early Sunday morning is when mischievous activity downtown or at the Sponge Docks typically requires the most police response, Young said.
“This year we really didn’t have anything like that,” Young said. “It’s the first time I can remember it being like that. Everything went very well this year, and everyone was very respectful of the service.”
The proactive steps taken by the police department and church to collaborate on discouraging bomb detonations among community members played a large role in this weekend’s absence of the devices, Young said.
“The chief had meetings with members of the church council as well as the priest and worked in partnership with them to get the message out,” Young said. “I think with having them involved in getting the message out was a huge help and benefit to have a successful event this year.”