Pittsburgh safety officials detail plans for St. Patrick's Day celebrations

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Pittsburgh public safety officials plan to station officers in areas they expect to draw the largest crowds today for the city's annual St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Public safety director Michael Huss said the parade and related events are expected to draw more than 100,000 people into Pittsburgh, and officials will coordinate law enforcement among city, Allegheny County and state police.

"We want everyone to have a very festive time ... but at the same time we're trying to keep it a family event," Mr. Huss said at a news conference Friday. "We know that there's many people that come with the intention of drinking all day, and, of course, that creates a series of problems for us as far as public safety."

Police will close and restrict parking on nearly two dozen streets or sections of streets today, and the Allegheny County Port Authority will alter about 45 bus routes to accommodate the parade Downtown.

Mr. Huss said "a very, very large contingent" of public safety personnel will be working today, including regular patrol officers, motorcycle and bicycle units, and undercover enforcement. Many will focus their attention on the South Side and Station Square, where revelers traditionally fan out after the parade and Irish Festival in Market Square.

This year marks the first time the city called on members of the Allegheny County mounted police -- which helped previously during Super Bowl and Stanley Cup championship parades -- to patrol the South Side for St. Patrick's Day events.

State police, which has had a limited role in previous St. Patrick's Day celebrations, also will help with traffic and DUI enforcement today.

Some city officers will work voluntary overtime or be held over from shifts today. As in years past, officers' discretionary time was canceled for St. Patrick's Day. Mr. Huss wasn't sure of the estimated overtime cost but said it will be consistent with previous years.

"We have the amount of officers we need to cover this event," he said, declining to say how many. He added later: "What I do know is we're going to have sufficient police available to deal with what we need to do, and we'll deal with the final numbers and how it's paid for later."

The cost of police details in Market Square this year will be partially covered by the Market Square Association, which has hired detail officers in the past, Mr. Huss said.

From 2 to 5:30 p.m. today, people 21 and older will be allowed to have open containers of alcohol in Market Square, provided they are purchased from restaurants there, Mr. Huss said.

Open containers will not be allowed there before 2 p.m. or after 6 p.m.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. at the Greyhound Bus Station (Liberty Avenue and 11th Street), proceeds to Grant Street, turns right at the Boulevard of the Allies and ends about 1 p.m. at Commonwealth Place.

South Side will have expanded taxi service, including a taxi stand at East Carson and 17th streets, a valet parking stand at East Carson and 18th streets, pedicabs and off-site parking available today.

Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft likely will be out in full force.

A shuttle service will circulate throughout the neighborhood to carry drivers to and from a lot across the Monongahela River on Second Avenue. The lot will be open from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday.

At previous media briefing Friday at Eleven Contemporary Kitchen in the Strip District, representatives from the Pittsburgh police, PennDOT, the Pennsylvania DUI Association and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board discussed the dangers of impaired driving.

Sgt. Douglas Ogden, coordinator of the West Hills DUI Task Force, said he hopes to round up at least one officer from all 15 member police forces for roving patrols starting Friday night.

Allegheny County recorded seven alcohol-related crashes last year, six in 2012, one in 2011 and two in 2010, according to PennDOT statistics. None was fatal.

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. Liz Navratil contributed. First Published March 14, 2014 3:24 PM

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