“Undoubtedly, the Fourth of July weekend is our busiest event of the year,” said Lifeguard Lt. Andy Lerum. “We work closely with SDFD (San Diego Fire Department) and SDPD (San Diego Police Department) and attend meetings months in advance to prepare for the increased activity at city beaches.”
San Diego Police Department Northern Division Capt. Chris Ball said there will be the same amount of police presence in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach during the weekend as there was in 2009.
“The challenge is with the numbers,” Ball said.
The SDPD is still coordinating its critical incident management, traffic and gang units to get a final count of officers in the area. Last year, more misdemeanor alcohol citations were made but the number of arrests from the previous year decreased.
“There are some challenges along Garnet Avenue with large numbers of people in the evening, but in terms of enforcement, there’s no real significant issues that we don’t encounter at any other time of the year,” Ball said.
According to Ball, the biggest challenge for police during the weekend won’t be enforcement. It will be handling the traffic coming in and out of Mission Beach and PB.
“One of the reasons for that is that the traffic coming into the beach is spread out but everyone leaves at the same time,” Ball said. “The biggest issue we deal with is crowd and traffic control.”
This year, there will be a police presence at Kate Sessions Park, which drew large crowds during last year’s holiday weekend. Ball said the police presence at the park is more about resources than policing.
“For the most part, people don’t go to that park to engage in criminal activity. People go in there to enjoy the weekend,” Ball said. “Will some people have too much to drink? Most certainly.”
Ball said he is unaware of any sobriety checkpoints to be set up during the weekend. In 2009, police had a checkpoint at 2700 Garnet Ave. on July 3.
While police control the streets and the sand, lifeguards will watch the water during the holiday weekend. According to Lerum, lifeguard staff will be increased by more than 60 percent on July 4 and 35 percent on the accompanying weekend days.
“It is the only weekend that we do not let any lifeguards take off,” Lerum said, “and we usually have to work guards on mandatory overtime just to have enough lifeguards to keep the huge crowds of people safe.”
Lerum said the additional guards during the holiday will strengthen Lifeguard Services’ drowning prevention and boating safety efforts at city beaches and on Mission Bay. There are also positions added especially for the Fourth of July holiday, including a “strike team” of 10 lifeguards on a boat able to respond to beaches that need help with water rescues.
“The biggest challenge for Lifeguard Services will be to maintain control of rescue activity without running short of resources,” Lerum said. “Water emergencies happen very quickly and lifeguards often need to access victims within seconds or serious consequences could occur.”
Lifeguards performed 284 water rescues during last year’s holiday weekend and made 5,890 preventative acts. There were no drownings reported.
“If the weather is sunny and the water is inviting like last year,” Lerum said, “we expect similar large crowds and rescue activity.”