Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 6, 2014

More visitors mean no time off, extra help for officers

TRAVERSE CITY — Scores of pedestrians with towels slung over their shoulders crossed Grandview Parkway as Traverse City Police Sgt. Steve Drzewiecki walked toward the National Cherry Festival’s entrance.

It’s Drzewiecki’s 24th year with the city police, and he’s patrolled as many Cherry Festivals. He said Friday the number of visitors grew “drastically” in that time, but the expected duties of city police during the festival’s hectic week remain the same.

“For us, it’s just about being here and visible,” he said.

Traverse City Police Capt. Jeff O’Brien said it’s all hands on deck for his officers during the festival. That means no time off, extra help from reserve officers and foot, bicycle and motorcycle patrols that roam the beach, Midway and downtown, on top of regular patrols.

City police also get assists from their counterparts in the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department, who help direct traffic, assist with the parade and patrol the bay.

“It’s a wide-variety, mish-mash to get the job done,” O’Brien said.

It also means overtime. Traverse City Clerk Benjamin Marentette said Cherry Festival organizers agreed several years ago to cover up to $45,000 in additional expenses that city departments may accrue. Last year, the festival reimbursed about $26,000 for police officers’ overtime, less than in other years.

“The last year’s overtime expenses have been a bit less because the Cherry Fest used some private security,” Marentette said.

Police and festival organizers upped security last year following the Boston Marathon bombing. This year, Drzewiecki said the Blue Angels are expected to draw more visitors.

About 20 officers, including reserves, patrolled the festival during those flights.

City police usually contend with a spike in alcohol-related disturbances and noise complaints during the Cherry Festival. O’Brien said the sheer volume of calls means officers must set priorities.

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