San Francisco prepares for New Year's Eve

December 31, 2009 12:09:30 AM PST
Thursday night is New Year's Eve and for a lot of people, the place to be will be in San Francisco. There will be big fun, big crowds, and for police big concern.

A quarter of a million people are expected to converge on San Francisco New Year's Eve. Ellsi Russell will be one of them. She'll be driving in from Fairfield.

"It's like the center of attention, why not? Like, it's the closest thing where things are live, it's always happening," says Russell.

The largest crowd will be gathered along the Embarcadero for the annual fireworks show. Police will have a full staff to make sure things don't get out of hand. Officers will also be keeping a close watch on several other known party hot spots -- streets like Broadway, Valencia and Castro.

"We're going to be focused on zero tolerance this year. Zero tolerance related to any alcohol related, any fireworks, any gang activity," says San Francisco Officer Boaz Mariles.

BART, meanwhile, is doing what it can to ensure a safe ride home. To help spread out the crowds heading to and from the East Bay, the Embarcadero station will only be serving passengers on the Dublin/Pleasanton lines. East Bay passengers on the Richmond and Pittsburg/Baypoint lines will have to walk two blocks west on Market Street to the Montgomery Street station.

"When people are crammed together, they get a little irritated and when they're inebriated, the irritation tends to play itself out a little bit more. So what we're trying to do is divide up the crowd between the two stations," says BART's chief spokesperson Linton Johnson.

As for police presence, the number of officers riding trains and monitoring BART stations will double compared to last New Year's. That is a direct response to accusations that the department was overwhelmed when Officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed unarmed passenger Oscar Grant.

On Wednesday, Grant's mother, pleaded for a safe holiday.

In a statement, Wanda Johnson wrote, the anniversary of her son's death should be "A day of celebration, not demonstration." She called for January 1 to be "A peaceful day to remember Oscar and the others who've been lost to violence."

BART anticipates there will be some confusion on New Year's so they will have banners, signs, and volunteers with bullhorns telling people where they need to go.


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