PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you are coming anywhere near the confluence of Pittsburgh’s three rivers to get a good vantage point for the Fourth of July EQT Flashes of Freedom Fireworks, expect to see heavy security.
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich is quick to point out, “There’s no specific threats to Pittsburgh or the Western Pennsylvania area.”
That said, every precaution will be taken to keep the thousands expected to converge on the area safe. While they haven’t decided whether metal detectors will be needed, bag checks will begin at 6 p.m.
Hissrich says, “We’re looking for weapons, explosives, other things we won’t get into, but anything that could cause harm.”
With a host of officers from multiple agencies, 19 on horseback, others on high vantage points, and a police helicopter on overwatch, the word of the day will be zero tolerance.
“Anyone coming downtown to create problems, disorderly conduct, use of fireworks, or fighting they are going to be arrested or cited. No questions,” Hissrich says. “I think that in previous years it got out of hand and we want everyone to have a good time in the City of Pittsburgh and we don’t have any tolerance for disobedience.”
While they will have a slew of people working, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert says they also depend on the public. “Safety is everyone’s responsibility and if you see something say something,” he says.
One area of concern is one of the best vantage points for fireworks in Pittsburgh: Mt. Washington. Recently, the city shut down the sightseeing sidewalks along Grandview Avenue because Hissrich says they, “have been ruled unsafe by the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure.”
Twist of fencing, yellow caution tape, Do Not Cross signs make it clear where you will not be able to stand. To make sure, Hissrich says six additional officers are being stationed on Grandview.
“You’re taking the same amount of people, or more people, and putting them into a smaller space so of course, you’re going to have some problems,” the public safety director says. “Anyone that goes over police line tape or fences will be asked nicely to leave, and if they don’t, they’ll be cited.”
The eastern end of Grandview Avenue will close to traffic at 6:30 p.m.
Being nice first and then zero tolerance is the watchword for the security plan. Chief Schubert says, “A lot of time people listen and go do their own thing. But if they continue to do it and the officers witness it, the officer will take some kind of action.”
If storms come towards the park and lightning is a threat, Hissrich says they will use the security checkpoints.
“We can shut down the entry to the park if we have to if we know storms are coming and we will do that. That way we only have to worry about the persons who are already into the park. The rain is not the problem — it’s the lightning or the wind.”
The fireworks begin at 9:35pm.