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OFFICIALS SAY THEY'RE READY TO KEEP PEACE DURING HOLIDAY

Local law enforcement and state corrections officials are gearing up to preserve calm in the event of a calamitous New Year's Eve.

No one is anticipating an extraordinary occurrence, but they're prepared nonetheless should there be a hint of new millennium madness.

"There are no specific threats that we are aware of," said Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan. "I, personally, do not expect any significant problems, but we have to be prepared all the same."

To that end, the Sheriff's Department will increase staffing New Year's Eve to bolster its presence at the Holding Center, on the streets and at the department's 12 substations throughout the county. The substations in those municipalities, where there is no other police force, usually are unmanned at night.

"In the event of an emergency such as the absence of any phone service, the public can drive to the substations for assistance," Gallivan said.

Meanwhile, Buffalo police are deploying plainclothes officers to be among the New Year's Eve revelers attending First Night celebrations downtown.

"It's a precaution," said Inspector Harold E. Litwin Jr., the department's chief of operations.

The plainclothes officers will be on the lookout for "suspicious persons and packages and whatnot," he said.

Officials from both law enforcement agencies also will be on hand at the emergency command centers for both the city and the rest of Erie County, Litwin said, so decisions can be made quickly in case any problems arise.

For those who elect to stay home New Year's Eve, Buffalo police are reminding residents to call 911 for emergencies only.

"If people call with every little Y2K problem, the 911 telephone reporting system could be overwhelmed," Deputy Police Commissioner Mark E. Blankenberg said.

He urged residents to use common sense in determining whether a true emergency exists and police are needed.

The U.S. Coast Guard has stepped up patrols on both the upper and lower Niagara River in response to increased concerns about border security along the largely open waters between the U.S. and Canada.

"We routinely patrol the Niagara, but we are working with shoreside agents of the U.S. Border Patrol to establish a greater on-water presence during this period of heightened alert," said Paul Preusse, commanding officer of Coast Guard activities along the Eastern Great Lakes.

Meanwhile, the state prison system's 20 SWAT teams will be on duty when New Year's Eve arrives to respond to possible unrest inside prisons or disruptions in communities outside prison walls, officials said.

The units -- called Correction Emergency Response Teams -- will be stationed geographically so they can respond quickly to problems in any of the state's 70 prisons, prisons spokesman James Flateau said.

About 1,000 guards and supervisors make up the teams. They are specially trained to deal with prison search-and-seizure operations, inmate demonstrations and other situations that could arise in correctional facilities.

Though prison administrators are concerned about a possible inmate strike or other disruptions on or about New Year's, Flateau said they also want the units to be in place in case they are needed elsewhere.

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