Law enforcement out in force for holiday

MARIETTA – It is the last big holiday weekend of summer and law enforcement throughout Washington County is bracing for an influx of traffic and criminal complaints.

“People have an extra day off from work and they’ll be traveling. There will be increased alcohol use,” said Village of Beverly Police Chief Mark Sams.

The village typically keeps one patrolman on staff per shift but will at least double that for the holiday weekend and focus on drunken driving arrests and speeding violations, said Sams.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol typically sees a spike in OVI arrests during a holiday weekend, said Lt. Carlos Smith, commander of the Marietta Post.

“All the troopers including myself will be out this weekend. We want to stay visible,” he said.

To compound the typical concerns of a holiday weekend, law enforcement has to contend with increased traffic to the Washington County Fair and school being back in session, said Smith.

“There are buses on the road. People are returning from vacation. Tourists are taking in the sites. And here in Washington County we have the fair,” he said.

Fair traffic may require some special attention from the Marietta Police Department, which will already be stretched thin as officers help patrol the fair and high school football games Friday and Saturday.

“We’ll be doing foot patrol at the fair. You always have potential for juvenile problems. We have fights occasionally. And we want to deter thefts from vehicles,” said Capt. Jeff Waite.

Other Marietta officers will be working at Don Drumm Stadium tonight as Warren High School takes on Parkersburg High School in football.

It means officers working the regular patrol shift might be at the minimum level. The department is five officers down now due to an officer on sick leave, a recent retirement and three new officers who are not trained to patrol on their own, said Waite.

If needed, the department will pull officers away from football detail, which is paid for by the schools and not the department.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to fully staff the (Saturday night) football game. We’ve got to have fair detail and we have to maintain the minimum shift level – three patrolmen, one dispatcher and one supervisor,” Waite said.

With the state patrol scouring state highways for drunken drivers, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office will likely have more time to spend dealing with the increased amount of criminal complaints that arise on holiday weekends, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

“We spend a lot of our time just answering calls from holiday parties that may result in domestic violence incidents or fights,” he said.

The sheriff’s office limits the number of officers who can call off on the holiday weekend so both day and night shifts will be fully staffed.

In addition, the sheriff’s office will be paying some officers overtime to patrol the fair, said Mincks.

The plethora of travelers on the road this weekend will be dealing with slightly higher gasoline prices thanks to the holiday.

According to AAA’s daily fuel gauge report, local regular unleaded gasoline prices rose approximately seven cents a gallon from Thursday to Friday. Friday’s $3.58 per gallon average for the Parkersburg-Marietta area was 10 cents higher than gasoline prices a week earlier.

However, area drivers are fairing much better than they were a year ago when a gallon of regular unleaded gas cost $3.94.