Stay Safe, Stay Sober

With a myriad of champagne bottles cracking open and a lake effect snow warning in effect for tonight, police officials are bracing themselves for a hectic-and potentially dangerous- New Year’s Eve.

According to Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace and local police chiefs, additional patrols will definitely be employed, courtesy of Operation Crackdown-a statewide initiative that provides additional grants to law enforcement agencies during particularly busy holidays.

“(Driving while intoxicated) is one of our top priorities … and we will have additional DWI patrols,” Gerace said. “We see more movement in the early hours (of the morning) because the bars normally let out at 2 (a.m.) … and people start driving back (from parties).”

Captain Robert Samuelson, division commander of the Jamestown Police Department, William Ohnmeiss, chief of police at the Ellicott Police Department and John Bentley, chief of police at the Lakewood-Busti Police Department, all echoed Gerace’s comments, indicating that they will also use extra patrols on New Year’s Eve and take proactive roles against drunk driving and other alcohol-related incidents.

“When people are getting festive, things can sometimes get out of hand,” Ohnmeiss said.

Unfortunately, with the National Weather Service issuing a lake effect snow warning- effective today until tomorrow at 1 a.m.- more things are likely to get out of hand.

“I think the weather is going to have an impact,” Gerace said. “We’re going to see traveling slow down a bit.”

But the potential for accidents is still there, Gerace added.

Police officials recommend that drivers be responsible and smart, using designated drivers and calling cabs if necessary.

Interestingly, police say that local New Year’s Eve incidents have steadily declined over the years, mainly due to a more informed public.

“We’ve seen a reduction in the number of arrests on New Year’s Eve,” Gerace said. “I think people are doing the right thing more, planning ahead, having a designated driver or calling cabs to bring them home.”

Ohnmeiss, who described New Year’s Eve as a “chaotic” time in the past, now believes that things have dramatically improved.

“I think it’s the younger generation,” Ohnmeiss said. “Because of better education, you see a lot of kids having non-alcoholic parties … and staying home where it’s safe.”

Police-and the community-can only hope this trend continues.