Policing an eight-day festival comes with unique challenges in the City of Tonawanda.
The City of Tonawanda Police Department is only 30 members strong, smaller in comparison to neighboring departments, but officers are being tasked with a pretty big job. Canal Fest runs eight days across the Tonawandas, bringing more than 100,000 visitors over that amount of time.
Officers in both the patrol and the marine units within the City of Tonawanda Police Department are working double duty, working their day shifts and then returning for Canal Fest assignments or working Canal Fest and then staying after to work their regular overnight shifts.
Stretching the manpower of officers is the need to be on the water as well as on the streets. Marine patrol officers cruise the Erie Barge Canal, looking out for boaters, kayakers and swimmers all sharing the same amount of space. Officers issue tickets for boaters just as they would for drivers on the road. Lieutenant Detective Scott Sheehan says even the smallest wake causes a lot of damage with so many boats in such close proximity and creates dangers for swimmers.
Captain Frederic Foels says keeping visitors of Canal Fest safe is the priority of officers and can only be done with the partnership of other police and public safety agencies.