It’s beginning to look like summer, and with the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaching, Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles and Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis told the City Council Tuesday night that they and their staff are more than ready to provide service wherever needed.
“Summer has officially kicked off,” stated Chief Boyles. “Junior Lifeguard program has started, our lifeguards are out there and every tower is now open. Trucks are patrolling the beach, and our fire personnel is fully staffed and ready for the Fourth of July.”
“Chief Boyles noted that the Old Glory Boat Parade will proceed as usual, but other things are different this year due to COVID-19.
“We cannot have mass gatherings, yet we do have a lot of visitors,” he said, adding that this year there will be no fireworks or community parades.
Chief Lewis talked about their efforts for the Fourth of July, which focus on West Newport.
“As you know, for many years this has been an all hands on deck deployment for our police department,” said Chief Lewis. “Everyone from every assignment that we have will be in uniform, working patrol and assigned to our holiday deployment for the Fourth of July. It’s a mandatory work day. We are primarily staffing West Newport for the concerns related to large crowds that we have historically seen on the Fourth of July. In addition to the efforts of our personnel, we will be partnering and contracting with the California Highway Patrol, Irvine Police Department, Orange Police Department, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and our Orange County Regional Mounted Enforcement. We are supported by these agencies, and our resources, to maintain order and keep the peace on the Fourth of July. It’s as simple as that.”
Chief Lewis said the city has established a Safety Enhancement Zone bordered by the ocean and 32nd street and Newport Boulevard to the east, West Coast Highway on the north, and Fifth Street on the west. Violations of the city’s municipal code within this area on the Fourth of July are subject to triple fines.
As to street closures, they are limited this year due to not having a fireworks show.
“Looking at the Fourth of July as it relates to the pandemic, we are gearing our approach a little differently this year,” said Chief Lewis. “We are focusing on things we think are going to be very important to managing this holiday: maintaining order, keeping the peace within West Newport in particular, but also we have seen some congestion issues in Corona del Mar as well. We will do it in a way that also recognizes the traffic concerns that we have and what they look like in terms of this pandemic.”
The police department is taking proactive measure to enforce current alcohol regulations, and will be addressing fireworks violations on the beach and in West Newport.
“Traffic laws concerning pedestrians and bicyclists will again be an issue for us,” said Chief Lewis. “We want to limit pedestrian congestion and congregation throughout the area of the peninsula, also Corona del Mar. Traffic will be monitored to determine if they can get emergency vehicles in and out of the impacted areas. Officers can conduct emergency traffic control, which means shutting down streets, assisting motorists off the peninsula. We have barricades should we need to deploy them.”
Chief Lewis noted that his department will deploy more vehicles at the beach to help enforce the hard beach closures at 10 p.m. He also said that by not having fireworks this year, many of his officers can now be moved into other areas of the city.
Councilmember Diane Dixon told Chief Lewis that the city often has up to 100,000 people on the beach on a holiday weekend, and wondered how they can maintain social distancing.
“We do not want to see large groups,” replied Chief Lewis. “Our intent is to be there, be present, gain cooperation from groups. Typically we have good cooperation once we make that engagement. If we allow groups to congregate, problems are attracted.”
Bottom line, said Chief Lewis, “we want people to get to where they are going.”