It won’t be just families and holiday revelers on Orange County beaches on the Fourth of July.
Hundreds of uniformed police officers will be keeping an eye on the celebrations and making sure laws are followed. For police departments who patrol the roughly 40 miles of coastline in Orange County, the Fourth of July can be their busiest time of the year, flooding dispatchers with calls and keeping officers busy with arrests and tickets.
“If you’re healthy and able to come in, you’re working,” said Kathy Lowe, spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Police Department.
Thousands of people are expected to make their way to Newport Beach during the Fourth of July holiday, Lowe said. To help with the surge, nearly all of the Newport Beach Police Department’s 135 sworn personnel will be out on the streets. The department has also requested additional officers from nearby agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Ana, Irvine and Anaheim police departments.
By the time barbecues are going on Independence Day, about 200 officers are expected to be on patrol, including a mounted unit.
“It’s a big inundation of people,” Lowe said. “We want people to come, but we want them to do it in a safe manner.”
Most days are relatively mellow for the Laguna Beach Police Department’s 49 sworn officers, but the Fourth of July is the department’s busiest. The department will be at full staffing, bringing in additional dispatchers, beach patrol officers and traffic cadets, Lt. Jason Kravetz said.
“Very few people get the day off,” he said.
In Newport Beach, officers handed out 500 citations and arrested 119 people, Lowe said. Of those people who ran into officers, about 85 percent were from outside Newport Beach.
30 ARRESTS IN LAGUNA BEACH
A total of 30 people were arrested in Laguna Beach last year, but officers were kept busy with more than 118 tickets from July 3 to July 5 last year, Kravetz said. Officers responded to almost 300 calls for service for July 4, 2011.
In San Clemente, as many as 40,000 people may visit the beach, said Lt. John Coppock, chief of police services for the city.
“Absolutely, we’ll have additional manpower,” he said.
Deputies will be on all-terrain vehicles patrolling the beach, Coppock said. The biggest problems: loud parties, disturbances and illegal fireworks.
Many of the calls are alcohol-related.
To handle the heightened activity in Newport, there will be a command post at City Hall.
Those who are arrested on the holiday will be taken to the command post to be processed. More serious offenders will go straight to the city’s jail. From there, officials have set up transportation to county jail.
But because of the lack of space in city jail, about 90 percent of those taken in are usually given a citation and released, Lowe said. About 10 percent make the trip to county jail.
Those breaking the law in the busiest areas of Newport Beach – West Balboa Boulevard between Pacific Coast Highway and 32nd Street, as well as Seashore Drive and streets between West Balboa and Seashore – can also expect to receive fines triple the regular amount.
Officers will also be enforcing the city’s new law concerning loud or unruly gatherings. The law was approved by the City Council last year and can result in a fine of up to $3,000 for the owners of property where boisterous parties occur.
In Dana Point, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department plans to deploy eight mounted units, as well as dispatching all-terrain vehicles at Salt Creek Beach.
FIREWORKS IN HUNTINGTON BEACH
With a planned parade and fireworks show, Huntington Beach police are always busy during the Fourth of July holiday. But, this year there will be an added policing factor as residents are now legally allowed to light state-approved fireworks.
“We’re really not doing anything too different other than we’re going to see what happens with how the fireworks affect our calls to service,” said Lt. Mitch O’Brien with the Huntington Beach Police Department.
“I think it will be naïve for me to say that fireworks weren’t being lit off in past years,” O’Brien added.
O’Brien said they will likely encounter challenges in what legal fireworks entail.
“For instance, you can’t buy fireworks from a stand and take them to the beach,” O’Brien said. “This is our first year so we’ll see how it goes.”
Officers will be on patrol with fire marshals who will be handling the illegal firework calls, he said.
Illegal fireworks include skyrockets and “anything that detonates,” O’Brien added.
Fireworks in Huntington Beach were banned in 1987 after the previous Fourth of July saw more than 10 fires in the city.
O’Brien said 100 private security guards have been hired to deal with road closures.
“We started doing that two years ago and the reason being we just don’t have as many officers working here.”
Huntington Beach police will also have 10 sheriff’s deputies helping out that day.
“We have to double beach details and the downtown foot beat,” O’Brien said. “We have to be ready because the crowds are huge.”
By SALVADOR HERNANDEZ and ALEJANDRA MOLINA / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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