No scotch at the beach?
Police Chief Vincent Carlone was on hand Wednesday night to help shepherd the Town Council’s adoption of a law banning alcohol from Block Island beaches — be it in open or closed containers.
The town already has a law prohibiting open containers in all public places, including beaches; the council has now voted to add language making it “unlawful to possess, carry or by any means convey in closed containers of any description alcoholic beverages on all public beaches in the town.”
The law will be presented for a public hearing on June 4.
An alternative, banning closed containers only on certain dates, was discarded. Since open containers are already unlawful on beaches, it seemed to council members that it was only logical to prohibit closed ones as well.
The effort to contain out-of-control drunken behavior on the island goes hand-in-hand with legislation passed by the state.
First Warden Kim Gaffett reported that she had just received news from state Sen. Susan Sosnowski that New Shoreham had permission to increase fines from $20 per offense to up to $200. Senate Bill 2372, passed by both state houses, went to the governor on April 24 and he signed it into law.
The state bill is seen as a major tool for crowd control, but it may be utilized for other offenses as well. It gives “the wardens’ court of the town of New Shoreham exclusive jurisdiction and cognizance over all crimes, offenses, and misdemeanors committed or done or occurring within the town of New Shoreham and the adjacent waters within the jurisdiction of the state, punishable by fine not exceeding two hundred dollars ($200)” or a jail term. The Council decided on a $150 fine.
Huge numbers of young revelers, using social media to publicize events, have gathered on Block Island beaches on July 4 in recent years, straining the capacity of the town’s police and emergency medical squads to maintain order and safety, not to mention the strain on sanitation facilities. Though the use of social media as a party invitation is relatively new, at one time island-based revelers used to gather on Scotch Beach in similar numbers causing similar problems. Residents have long lobbied for more stringent crowd control measures.
The police force on Block Island, Carlone said Wednesday, is too small to enforce every beer can or margarita cup brought to the beach. “Block Island is surrounded by beaches…we are going to focus on East Beach starting this summer,” he said, defining that area as the beach below the Surf Hotel.
Carlone has been meeting with town officials and members of the rescue squad, fire department and medical center to plan for the summer influx. This month a contingent of officials from the State Police will visit to “figure out the transport vehicle needs,” Carlone said. Rescue Squad Captain Bryan Wilson and Fire Chief Tristan Payne reported they have been speaking with other rescue squads through the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assitance Team. This team partners with the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps to assist in public health emergencies. Through this organization, Wilson said he will probably be able to add four volunteers from South Kingstown’s rescue squad to augment Block Island’s over the July 4 holiday. They would be utilized to “sit” with patients who do not require medical facilities but need observation, and also to fill out forms and provide transportation. Town Manager Nancy Dodge said drinking establishments will also be checked for capacity before and after the holidays by the fire marshals.
The planning stretches beyond Block Island’s shores. Carlone himself is utilizing social media, with a page on Facebook (New Shoreham Police Department) to get his message to the public.
The State Police also maintain a “fusion center,” which their website says was “established to investigate potential terrorist activity, as well as to facilitate the dissemination of the intelligence information to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The scope of the Fusion Center has expanded to include the investigation of all criminal activity.”
Those arranging parties via social media can be located using key words through data-mining and then contacted to squelch the gatherings.
Carlone plans to use more time- honored methods of communication as well, such as asking Narragansett to post signs about the island’s new alcohol policy, as well as going on the radio to let parents know what their kids do while on the island.
The Town Council on Wednesday also approved an out-of–season liquor license request from the Surf Hotel. The council advised the Surf to submit a formal application, after which a date would be set for a liquor license hearing.