LIMA — The Fourth of July, like the nation’s other holidays, is a time for friends and family to come together in celebration. But, just like with any other gathering among a crowd of people, the fun can sometimes lead to a trip to the hospital, a night in jail, or a fine.
Detective Steve Stechschulte, of the Lima Police Department, worked for 15 years as a patrolman before being promoted to detective. Stechschulte knows firsthand the steps law enforcement takes to ensure everyone has a safe holiday, and how police departments step up their game during celebrations such as the upcoming Fourth of July.
Stechschulte said one of the more noticeable steps police take on holiday celebrations is an increase in manpower. He said grant funding and money allocated from the city budget will allow police to employ more officers during holiday events, such as the Star Spangled Spectacular in Lima.
“A lot of times there’s some state grant money for specific details relating to traffic violations, OVIs, stuff like that, which helps increase manpower,” Stechschulte said. “Then we also try to concentrate on areas where we have any kind of celebration — anywhere that you’re going to get a large amount of people. It’s not only for protection, but to handle any disturbances or civil unrest that will come up.”
Some of the more common calls police officials receive on the Fourth of July holiday are domestic disturbances, drunken driving, public intoxication and unlawful discharging of firearms. The last offense Stechschulte listed is most common on July 4 and New Year’s Eve.
“For some reason people believe that, since it’s the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve, they can shoot their guns in the air,” he said. “But that’s not the case, especially within city limits.”
If someone is caught unlawfully firing their weapons, they could face charges ranging from discharging a firearm within city limits, discharging a firearm in a prohibited place or roadway, and operating a firearm while intoxicated, among others.
“There’s probably three to four different laws that apply, depending on the circumstance,” he said.
With an increased likelihood for crime and injury during holidays, Stechschulte offered some tips on how to remain safe and lawful during upcoming celebrations.
“The first thing is to be respectful to other people,” he said. “If you think about your neighbors or other people at the place you are at first before yourself, a lot of times you’ll make better decisions.”
He also cautioned people to not drink in excess, even if they are not driving.
“Very few people make their brightest decisions while intoxicated,” he said.
His last suggestion is simple and succinct: Don’t break the law.
“Regardless of whether or not they see a reason for the law, such as with fireworks and stuff like that, there is a reason for that and it mostly has to do with someone’s safety,” he said. “If it’s the law, don’t break it. That’s the best thing they can do to be safe.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.