By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – While Grapelandites are preparing to ring in the New Year with parties and good times with friends, the officers at the Grapeland Police Department are gearing up to make sure the streets stay safe during all of the festivities.

“Have a plan of where you’re going and who’s going to look out for you if you decide to drink,” encouraged Lt. Ronnie Howell. “Have a fully-charged cell phone in case you need to report an emergency or you need to call somebody.”

Howell also recommended carrying proper identification at all times and informing family members or friends of your plans before heading out.

“Know your alcohol limits and drink plenty of water throughout the evening,” he continued. “If you’re at a party, don’t leave your drink unattended.”

Howell also discouraged relying on a stranger to provide a ride home or any other location.

“Dress warmly and wear appropriate shoes,” he said. “I don’t know how much rain we’re going to get or if we’re going to get any sleet or any kind of ice, but you need to prepare for potentially slippery roads and sidewalks.”

According to Howell, utilizing marked crosswalks and making eye contact with drivers when crossing roads is also important.

Howell also encouraged everyone to be mindful of the city’s laws in the midst of all the celebration.

He cited excessive noise caused by fireworks and music as the city’s biggest New Year’s Eve issue and said that while there is no fireworks ordinance in place, there is a noise ordinance.

“We’re just encouraging people to be mindful of their neighbors,” he said. “We know people are going to be having parties, and they’re going to be shooting off fireworks.”

Howell said that while fireworks are permitted in Grapeland by the city council, popping them after midnight will be considered a violation of the noise ordinance.

“Some people actually have to go to work on New Year’s Day,” he pointed out. “After midnight, we’ll start issuing citations for loud noise calls – loud music, people popping fireworks.”

According to Howell, the firing of guns to welcome the New Year has been a problem during the time he has spent in Grapeland.

“We’re not going to tolerate that,” he said. “Celebratory gunfire could kill people. In the city, disorderly conduct with a firearm is a $2,000 fine; it’s a Class B misdemeanor. If anybody’s out shooting a gun, they’re going to take a trip to jail.”

Howell said officers will be patrolling the city and being on the lookout for fights, but added that such disputes are not typically an issue in the city.

Partygoers who plan on consuming alcohol also need to keep the city’s stance on such beverages in mind, said Howell.

“We do have a city ordinance that says you cannot have an open container containing an alcoholic beverage – glass, plastic, aluminum, Styrofoam – whatever you’re carrying it in, if it’s alcohol, if you’re outside in public, it’s a violation of city ordinance,” he explained. “We will be issuing citations for that. And if you’re drunk, you’ll be going to jail.”

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.