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Police take precautions for park's fireworks event

July 03, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When the fireworks flare Friday night at Martinsburg's War Memorial Park, police and other officials are hoping a few changes will keep tempers from flaring as well.

Because of several fights that broke out last year, the fireworks finale was delayed for about 30 minutes.

This year, about 20 police officers will patrol the park, including some in plainclothes. They will look for any potential problems and will keep an eye out for people who are drinking alcohol, which is prohibited in the park, said Martinsburg Police Department Chief Ted Anderson.

The fireworks themselves will be set off from private property a few hundred yards away, which also should help, said Anderson and Steve Catlett, director of Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation.

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Only country and patriotic music will be played, Catlett said. At last year's celebration, during a street dance a DJ played all types of music, including rap.

Some of the music that was played last year, which Anderson described as being geared toward a younger crowd, could have contributed to the tension, he said. Several people were escorted from the park during last summer's festivities and two juveniles were arrested.

As for the fireworks, moving them to nearby private property will eliminate any chance of one misfiring into the crowd. And it means the smoke will not filter through the throngs of people in attendance, Catlett said.

Last year, police officers had a difficult time seeing because of the smoke and had difficulty hearing radio communications because of the blasts, Anderson said.

To quickly control any problems, Anderson said Eastern Regional Jail officials will be at the park, along with a transport van and "a lot of shackles."

Anyone caught with alcohol will be issued a citation or, if need be, arrested. Anderson guaranteed they'll be gone by the time the fireworks begin.

"They're going to be excommunicated, so to speak," he said.

Because the fireworks will be set off close to Interstate 81, Anderson said electronic message signs will be erected along the highway, warning drivers of what's happening and also directing them not to pull over and watch, Anderson said.

Despite the precautions, Anderson and Catlett said the thousands of people who are expected to attend should have a good time.

The park's pool will be open, concessions will be available and people can hold cookouts, Anderson said.

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