Uptown security beefed up for First Night celebration

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Police and event organizers said there will be plenty of security as Charlotte's annual New Year's celebration moves to a new location uptown.

First Night will be in the new Romare Bearden Park, between Church and Mint streets, starting with a program for children on Tuesday afternoon and concluding with a ceremonial crown raising at midnight.  

Moira Quinn with Center City Partners said they are expecting a large crowd for both events.   
 
"They absolutely should feel safe.  There's going to be lots of police protection," Quinn said.

Police have adjusted schedules to bring extra officers in and event organizers have hired off-duty officers to work the event in uniform, so visitors can expect to see plenty of officers on the streets and sidewalks.

"Expect officers to direct traffic and to instruct people on where they can stand," said Major Jeff Estes, who is overseeing police planning for the event.

The city has declared it an Extraordinary Event, which gives officers extra authority to inspect backpacks and confiscate anything that could be dangerous.

"For example, fireworks, weapons, open containers of alcohol will not be allowed," Estes said.

Estes said they will also be strictly enforcing the city's curfew, which does not allow anyone under 16 years old to be out after 11 p.m. without parents or guardians.

"We will hold people accountable," Estes said.

The tough line on security comes after two weeks of scattered violence uptown and after trouble at other, similar events in the past.

Police and organizers are confident they have a plan in place to keep that from happening this time and people who spoke with Eyewitness News said they are not worried.

"I'm not oblivious to the fact that things can happen, but I'll definitely check it out," said Zuhrie Bennett, who works uptown.

Bennett’s friend, Lucy Zhang, added, “It's a great spot for people to go.  It's open, it's nice. Yeah, it's going to be neat."

For more details on First Night, click here.