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Police hope cameras, horse patrols will calm July 4th beach parties

July 1, 2012 |  7:58 am

Police are experimenting with temporary surveillance cameras and new traffic controls to further tame  Newport Beach's infamous Fourth of July parties.

People on historically rowdy street corners now will be watched from a monitor at City Hall and by officers on street patrol. And, for the first time in 10 years, Newport Beach police will allow traffic to flow in both directions on West Balboa Boulevard.

The idea is to end the bacchanalia that city officials and homeowners have criticized for decades. Police are hoping to build on their first year of enforcement of their Loud and Unruly Gathering ordinance, which officials have called a success. Also, July 4 falls on a Wednesday this year, potentially keeping some visitors at home — or at least relatively sober.

"A lot of things are going in favor of us," said Deputy Chief David McGill, the incident commander for the day.

By closing Balboa Boulevard in years past, "we were almost condoning a party atmosphere," he said. "It made it like a Mardi Gras."

To "set the tone," on Wednesday morning, McGill plans to start citing anyone who is jaywalking on Balboa Boulevard, and otherwise strictly enforce pedestrian and bike traffic. Closing Balboa Boulevard will still be an option if things get out of hand, he said.

The shopping center at West Coast Highway and West Balboa Boulevard will be open this year.

"It [was a problem] when they closed it all down," said Curtis Foltz, 49, a mechanic at Chicago Bike in that center. "It killed our business."

Another new addition is mounted police. The Orange County Sheriff's Department will provide officers on horseback, giving police better visibility and an imposing presence.

The cameras are supposed to give commanders "situational awareness," said Lt. Evan Sailor, who will run operations that day. If they spot a street with an escalating disturbance, they can call for reinforcements.

— Mike Reicher, Times Community News

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