Boston police will step up their presence at the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday, deploying more uniformed and undercover officers as well as the bomb squad along the parade route, officials said.
Since last year’s Boston Marathon terror bombings, “at just about every event we’ve now increased those types of resources just to ensure safety,” said police spokesman Michael McCarthy. “Our main focus is that people come out and enjoy themselves.”
Police are also encouraging people not to bring bags, though they are not banning them.
The parade, which McCarthy said is one of the city’s largest, has been held since 1901, and draws thousands of people to its 3.7-mile course. In the past five years or so, McCarthy said, police have cracked down on public drinking, enforcing a zero tolerance policy, to make the event more family-friendly. By and large, he said, the approach has worked.
“There was a period where it was getting rowdy, and there was a much younger population attending, a non-resident population,” he said. “We shifted our focus to the public drinking aspect of it, and trying to remove that element from the day and make it more about the parade itself.”
Last year, police arrested 33 people, mostly for disorderly conduct, and cited 336 people for drinking in public, according to Globe reports. The year before, police issued 244 citations for public drinking and arrested just eight people.
“We don’t like to focus on the numbers,” McCarthy said. “What we do focus on is we have a zero tolerance for alcohol. Every officer will be equipped with violation books. The arrests are unfortunate, but if need be, that’s what we’ll do.”
McCarthy said police do not plan to conduct bag searches unless they believe there is something suspicious.
Public drinkers will face a $200 city ordinance violation, he said, though officers can arrest public drinkers who are loud or disorderly. Minors in possession of alcohol, he said, will be arrested.
The holiday this year falls on a Monday, and police patrols in South Boston and in areas of the city with Irish bars were increased beginning on Thursday. On the day of the parade, mobile cameras will be set up along the route to give police real-time feeds, and a State Police helicopter will patrol the skies looking out for illegal rooftop parties.
Department of Public Works trucks will be brought in so police can throw out confiscated alcohol, and officers will be stationed outside bars, restaurants, and package stores along the route. Lines will not be allowed to form outside establishments, McCarthy said.
All package stores in South Boston will close at 4 p.m. Bars will not admit anyone after 6:30 p.m., alcohol service will end at 7 p.m. and patrons must be out by 7:30 p.m., McCarthy said.
The parade will impact traffic along the route and its feeder streets, McCarthy said, and people are urged to take public transportation.
Police are hoping not to see the arrest and citation numbers of last year, McCarthy said.
“We encourage people to come out and have a good time and a family atmosphere,” he said. “Which is, again, no drinking and no disorderly conduct.”