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Buffalo police plan to crack down on public intoxication during St. Patrick’s Day parades

Buffalo police are looking to curtail one of the longtime traditions associated with the city’s St. Patrick Day parades – public intoxication.

Paradegoers this weekend can expect more police officers along the parade routes and more officers writing summonses if open-container laws are violated, city officials said Wednesday.

In addition, the State Liquor Authority will be enforcing underage drinking laws, and city police will have DWI checkpoints set up, Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said.

Also, Metro Rail will be fare-free all day Sunday, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority announced.

During a news conference Wednesday, Buffalo officials announced the clampdown on drinking at both Saturday’s Old Neighborhood Parade in the Old First Ward and Buffalo’s St. Patrick’s Day parade along Delaware Avenue on Sunday.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown noted both parades attract bigger crowds each year, and encouraged people to come to Buffalo to enjoy them. He added that the city will be taking additional steps to ensure public safety during both “family-friendly” events.

“We continue to take steps to further improve public safety to provide a festive, fun and family-friendly atmosphere for all to enjoy, and we hope residents and visitors alike will join us in that efforts,” he said.

Derenda said police “will be enforcing city laws when it comes to disruptive behavior, public drinking, underage drinking and intoxication.”

City officials also suggested that – given the large crowds at both parades – paradegoers consider carpooling or using public transportation.

The NFTA, meanwhile, said MillerCoors is paying $17,000 to the NFTA to open the entire Metro Rail line for free rides Sunday, which is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year.

“We did it once last year with MillerCoors for a hockey game when they paid a sponsorship fee on a weeknight,” NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said. “They were favorably impressed and asked for an event that would give them even more exposure. So we came up with the St. Patrick’s Parade and entered into an agreement.”

Not only will parade fans enjoy the free ride, he said, but many more potential customers will be exposed to the benefits of forsaking their cars for a crowded downtown event. He added the MillerCoors fee will cover NFTA costs on that day.

Trains will begin running outbound from Erie Canal Harbor Station at 8 a.m. Sunday, he said, with the last inbound trip from University Station at 11:30 p.m. The trains will operate on a Sunday schedule, about every 20 minutes.

Extra transit police officers will be posted throughout the system on parade day, he added, and signs in the stations and aboard trains are already alerting riders to the free day on Sunday.

email: sschulman@buffnews.com and rmccarthy@buffnews.com