Police Prepare For Holiday Festivities

Police countywide will be watching motorists this Fourth of July, as temperatures, fireworks and alcohol consumption are expected to rise.

“We will have our patrols out there keeping a close eye on everything,” said Capt. Robert Samuelson of the Jamestown Police Department. “At least for us everyone seems to leave the city for the holiday in terms of vehicles on the road. It’s when they come back that our officers have to be alert.”

Samuelson said officers will routinely monitor traffic, and doesn’t expect a change in daily operation for the police department. “We will still be out there doing what we always do,” he said.

As for fireworks, which are illegal to possess in New York state, authorities say in the wrong hands combined with warmer temperatures and alcohol can be dangerous. Police last year saw an increase in the number of Roman candles possessed in the city.

“In the wrong hands these are very dangerous, especially in an urban area where houses are close together,” Samuelson said, noting a house fire in Buffalo three years ago set by a Roman candle.

Many fireworks are purchased in Pennsylvania and brought into the state, Samuelson said.

Police in Lakewood and Busti will be increasing patrols for the Independence Day weekend, Sgt. Paul Gustafson said. With an expected spike in holiday travel, including on area waterways, Gustafson said there is always a risk for injuries.

“Driving while intoxicated incidents become a very dangerous situation,” he said. “Law enforcement will be stepping up patrols and proactively looking for DWI offenders, as well as those possessing fireworks and causing dangerous situations.

“As always we urge everyone to obey the laws that are in place, considers others and everyone a safe holiday.”

According to AAA, more than 40 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more during the holiday weekend, a decrease of less than 1 percent over last year. More than 34 million people are expected to travel by car, with air travel expected to top 3 million. Most are expected to begin their journey today, AAA said.

“Although national travel is expected to be down slightly, we are still seeing an overall upward trend from the decade low of 29.8 million July 4th travelers in 2009,” said Jim Lehman, president, AAA East Central. “It’s not unusual to experience a slight decrease in travelers during years that have a shorter celebratory period.”

Gas prices are not expected to slow holiday travelers, AAA said. The current average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.541, 14 cents higher than last year.

Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said he expects numerous patrols throughout the weekend, and said sheriff’s deputies will be looking for fireworks. Extra personnel may be brought in as needed, he said.

“We expect many will turn this into an extended weekend, which does present challenges,” Gerace said. “There is the potential for drunk drivers and our typical service calls.”

It’s illegal fireworks, though, that may keep sheriff’s deputies busy.

“If people are setting them off and people are calling about them, we have an obligation to respond,” Gerace said. “It’s really something that should be left up to the professionals.”