Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet all come to mind around the Fourth of July. But one could argue that the list is missing a couple staples of the summer holiday. The Fourth brings two of America’s favorite pastimes, drinking beer and blowing stuff up, together into a beautiful, dangerous celebration. For the Duluth Police Department, it makes this weekend one of their busiest of the year.
“We prepare knowing that typically it’s one of our busier weekends of the year,” Duluth Police Public Information Officer Jim Hansen said. “Especially when it comes to a weekend where it cycles on a Friday like it is this year.”
With the Fourth falling on a Friday, it turns what usually is a one-day-long celebration into a three-day party marathon. Fully aware of this, the DPD has prepared itself for the long weekend, with an emphasis on enforcement.
According to Hansen, the DPD will have a significantly larger presence this year compared to past years by granting overtime that will allow extra squads to patrol, some with a specific role.
“We have squads dedicated this year looking for disturbance type calls related to fireworks,” Hansen said. “They’ll hopefully be able to handle those calls and not put quite as much of a burden on our regular patrol squads, because that does get to be a delicate balance around the Fourth of July weekend.”
Hansen said that a large number of disturbance calls come in every year around the Fourth, and that, in years past, they haven’t been able to respond to them as quickly as they would like.
“It’s easy for the officers to let (disturbance calls) stack if they don’t have any availability,” he said. “Sometimes if that fireworks complaint came in an hour ago and, because that officer is on patrol helping out with different calls, he might not ultimately get to where that complaint came from.”
With regards to illegal fireworks, Hansen said that their use cannot be ignored.
“It’s just a reality of the weekend,” he said. “We know that it’s going to be going on. At the same time it’s something that we can’t ignore because it’s leads to quality of life issues.”
Hansen used the example of fireworks being lit late at night when people are trying to sleep.
The DPD has also called on their law enforcement partners in the area in an effort to reduce drunken driving accidents. According to Hansen, officers from Floodwood, Hermantown and Proctor, among other departments, all take part in the state-funded program Toward Zero Deaths, which aims to have zero traffic-related deaths in Minnesota, and will assist the DPD over the weekend.
"There’s a significant presence out and you’ll notice it, especially on the roadways,” Hansen said.
All these efforts are being done for the safety of Duluthians, and none of it means that we can’t celebrate, according to Hansen.
“We want everybody to enjoy themselves and have a fun weekend,” he said. “But like any other time that those celebrations go on, we just ask that everybody plan for a safe ride, plan for a designated driver, and just basically enjoy things in moderation. We want everyone to have fun, but also be safe.”