Gascon: extra officers, zero tolerance on NYE


At a news conference this morning, Police Chief George Gascon urged the estimated quarter-million people planning to come to the city on Dec. 31 to "leave your cars and your guns at home."

While Gascon declined to say exactly how many extra officers will be on the streets, he said police will be visiting various venues to make sure alcohol isn't being served to underage or overly inebriated patrons.

San Francisco Fire Marshal Barbara Schultheis said fire inspectors will also be stopping by nightclubs and other venues with advertised New Year's Eve parties, looking for overcrowding. She advised partygoers to identify emergency exits, and avoid places that seem dangerously crowded.

Plainclothes police officers will be permeating the festivities at the Embarcadero, keeping an eye out for open-container violations and public drunkenness, he said.

While police won't hold any checkpoints to test drivers for alcohol, motorcycle officers and those in patrol cars will be watching for erratic driving.

Gascon also promised a rapid police response to any citizen complaints.

The zero-tolerance policy also applies to anyone hoping to mark the end of the decade by firing a weapon or lighting fireworks, he said. Shooting a gun into the air is a felony, punishable by up to a year in prison.

Assistant Chief Kevin Cashman said some people might be under the impression that drinking in public isn't a big deal if done discretely.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. When alcohol is involved, he said, "little problems become big ones."

Gascon declined to offer specifics on how this year's enforcement plan differs from that of previous years.

"We continue to learn and we continue to evolve," he said. "Let's just say there will be a lot of officers out this year."

He said the Embarcadero area, where people gather to watch the fireworks, will likely have the heaviest congregation of revelers.

Last year, police arrested about 36 people on New Year's Eve and early on New Year's Day. That included 30 arrests for public drunkenness in the areas of Broadway, Market Street and the Embarcadero.

BART plans to implement a split-service plan on New Year's Eve, designed to alleviate overcrowding on trains as people head home after the fireworks show.

Trains on the Richmond and Pittsburg-Bay Point lines will stop at the Montgomery station and skip the Embarcadero station as they leave San Francisco. Conversely, trains headed to Dublin-Pleasanton or Fremont will skip the Montgomery station but stop at the Embarcadero station.

BART officials are hoping the changes will split the crowd in two as they head home, with some riders boarding at Embarcadero and others walking to the Montgomery station to catch their trains.

BART trains will run until about 3 a.m. on New Year's Day. For riders heading back to the East Bay, the last trains will depart at about 3:20 a.m.

Unlike last year, the agency will not be selling flash passes. Riders are advised to buy a round-trip ticket when they board earlier in the evening.

BART hopes to have between 150 and 200 police officers on the system, a significant increase from previous years. Officers from Oakland, San Francisco, and Alameda and Contra Costa Counties will help patrol, according to BART.

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