Police adding officers, resources for expected July 4 crush

Two Seattle Police officers told an Eastlake audience Monday evening the department is adding extra personnel and resources to deal with what is expected to be the largest Lake Union July 4 crowd ever.

When Ivar’s announced in April that it was canceling its Elliot Bay fireworks display, the Chase Family 4th on Lake Union became the only fireworks event in Seattle. Neighborhoods around the lake are preparing for a holiday crush of fireworks fans.

“Some are saying we could see an increase of 30 percent,” Lt. Deanna Nollette, second watch commander and events commander at the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct told the meeting at TOPS-Seward School. “I feel it could be quite a bit higher.”

Accompanying Nollette was officer Mark Wong who has worked 14 of the last 16 July 4ths in Eastlake. He provided details on how the police intend to deal with traffic and crowds in Eastlake.

One key question: If you have guests coming for the fireworks (which usually begin just after 10), when should they be here?

“I’d get down here before 6-7 p.m.,” Wong said. After that, restrictions on access to neighborhood streets will make it difficult if not impossible to get in and find a place to park. They won’t be requiring people to have written invitations from a resident to enter the neighborhood, he said.

Some highlights from the two officers’ presentation:

  • In anticipation of the bigger crowds, there will be 70 officers on duty in Eastlake for the fireworks, up from 63 last year. These are in addition to the usual contingent of officers working the neighborhood. And more officers can be called in if they are needed for a major problem.
  • Eight of those personnel (seven officers and one sergeant) will be out on bikes stating at 1:30 p.m. to monitor crowds and “set the tone,” Wong said, letting people know the police are there and watching for those shifts in mood that indicate a scene may be turning ugly.
  • Parking enforcement officers (four times as many as last year) will be out starting around 2 to 3 p.m., ticketing and impounding cars that are improperly parked. They will try to have tow trucks in the neighborhood.
  • If people are trying to drive in to the streets west of Eastlake, officers will ask if they have a place to park and warn them that they will be ticketed and impounded if they park illegally.
  • Around 6:30 p.m., you’ll start seeing officers at orange barriers at intersections along Eastlake Avenue. Between 7:30 and 8 p.m., they will start to assess the traffic situation on streets west of Eastlake and around 8:30 they’ll close those streets to cars (but you can always walk or bike any streets in the neighborhood).
  • The Lakeview overpass that goes over I-5 to Eastlake Avenue will be closed to everyone at some point during the evening.
  • During the fireworks show, officers will move the street closures from the west side of Eastlake to the streets on the east side. By the end of the fireworks, the two blocks of E. Lynn between Eastlake and Boylston will be converted into a one-way street heading east. If you’re in the left lane, you’ll have to go north at Boylston; right lane and you’ll have to head south. The basic idea is that people leaving will have to go either north or south on Eastlake or up Lynn to get on the freeway.
  • They’ll try to hold off opening the University Bridge until 11:30 p.m.
  • After the fireworks, Harvard between Roanoke and Eastlake avenues will be one-way going north.
  • The State Patrol closes the I-5 ramps (Mercer, Boylston and Roanoke) and is committed to opening them as fast as possible after the fireworks, starting with Mercer.
  • There is no parking on Newton west of Eastlake on July 4.
  • Wong said police simply don’t have enough personnel to close streets on both sides of Eastlake all evening. “And it would cause gridlock” if they did, he added.

    Call 9-1-1 if you see people parking illegally, Nollette and Wong said. Describe what the problem is (blocking a fire hydrant, parking in an alley or a driveway), give a good description of the vehicle and a location.

    What about illegal fireworks? Nollette said the police will be doing an education program in conjunction with the fire department, reminding people that fireworks are illegal in the city.

    “We don’t typically respond to reports of fireworks,” she said, “because we just don’t have the bodies.” But, if people are shooting off fireworks in ways that might cause a fire, she added, you should call 9-1-1.

    While Nollette said she can’t guarantee there won’t be problems, “I feel confident in this plan.”

    If you have questions or concerns, you can e-mail Nollette at deanna.nollette@seattle.gov.

    UPDATE: Monica Guzman at seattlepi.com reports on how Wallingford is bracing for the big crowds.

    Thanks to Tim Ahlers for sharing his notes on the meeting.

    4 thoughts on “Police adding officers, resources for expected July 4 crush

    1. boyerbl

      We will never attend the event again after a fight broke out between gang bangers 2 years ago. We were on top of the hill and as the fireworks show time neared the crowd grew, it was elbow to elbow (no crowd control). 6 gang youth showed up and a fight broke out, The crowd was packed in so tight people were being stepped on in the rush to get out of the way.

    2. Marc

      Yawn. Don’t you get tired posting your same rant on every article you can find?

      But I agree, if you don’t like people then stay away.

    3. Al

      Find it hard to believe that this ridiculous event is allowed to continue.

      @Marc – Why should someone be forced to stay away from their home to avoid this ridiculous event?

    4. skippy

      We have been going, about 10-15 of us, to a friend’s house nearby for years now and we love it. The Chase party is just that – a street party – and it’s people-intensive but we have a blast. Like everything in life, if it does not please you, make other choices and be happy. Happy 4th!

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