Police at beaches gearing up for 4th

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor
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NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla - The police departments at the beaches have been gearing up for the big Fourth of July weekend and are ready to crack down on illegal behavior.

Jacksonville Beach sees most of the action on this popular holiday but Neptune Beach will still see as many as 10,000 people this holiday weekend, walking and biking.

The Neptune Beach Police Department wants everyone to have a good time -- but officers also want to keep things under control, saying they won't tolerate rowdy, belligerent or illegal behavior.

"I hope there's plenty of them," Roy Eudy said of the Neptune Beach police presence.

Eudy said he hopes this year's Fourth of July in Neptune Beach can be as enjoyable as years past.

The Neptune Beach Police Department said it will have plenty of officers on duty.

All 19 on the NBPD police force will be working, and 15 officers with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office will supplement Neptune Beach on Friday, and six JSO officers will patrol Neptune Beach on Saturday.

That number is up from six JSO officers on last year's Independence Day.

Police Chief David Sembach said many problems on the holiday typically stem from alcohol.

"People like to come down to First Street and ride their bikes and drink alcohol and we want to make sure everyone that comes down here doesn't overdo it and stays safe," Sembach said.

He reminded everyone that drinking and biking is just as bad as drinking and driving, and that you'll face the consequences for both.

"We are going to have a lot of police officers out here, and we're not going to hesitate to book people for DUI if that's what needs to happen," he said.

Sembach said every year the NBPD has to call fire rescue for people who either get in fights or drink too much and fall down or off their bikes.

"It's the ones who overindulge and want to cause problems, those are the ones we are going to deal with," Sembach said. "And we are going to deal with them harshly. Sometimes it just gets out of hand. Alcohol is our biggest problem on this day, and we want them to have a good time. If you're drinking a little alcohol that's fine, just don't drink a whole a lot of alcohol."

By late afternoon Friday, First Street in Neptune Beach had transformed into a highway for bikes, as thousands brought their beach cruisers and hopped from party to party. The Neptune Beach were keeping traffic moving and people safe.

Officers were also patrolling the 1.2 mile-long stretch of sand, working closely with lifeguards and firefighters.

Bikers need to also remember not to block rights-of-way on roads or sidewalks. Police will give you a $250 ticket.

If drivers block a right-of-way, their cars could be towed.

In Jacksonville Beach, police set up a command post, teaming with firefighters and lifeguards to keep the crowds protected.

"The biggest thing is that there are a lot of people, a lot of crowds, so watch the traffic. Use crosswalks," said Chief Gary Frazier of the Jacksonville Beach Fire Department. "Find a safe parking spot and leave your fireworks at home if you have them. Just come out and enjoy the show."

There are also large teams of lifeguards on the beaches. They said the waters have calmed down but rip current risks still exist.

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