'No major incidents' on New Year's weekend

Compared with previous years, the weekend's New Year's celebration was a mild affair for police.

Police arrested two drivers for DUI and handed out several citations to minors in possessions of alcohol, but faced a less chaotic night than in some recent years, said Sgt. Bob Smith with the Ashland Police Department.

"There was nothing really serious that went down, no major incidents," Smith said. He noted that a lone scuffle — fueled by alcohol — marked the night's only threat of violence. But police quickly had the incident under control.

"He ended up going to jail for punching a guy in the face," Smith said of the instigator.

Police were out in increased numbers to monitor the plaza and streets. In the days leading up to New Year's, police said they expected crowds upward of 2,000 to pack the plaza for the end-of-year celebration. A drunk driving saturation force was set up to crack down on drivers under the influence.

But only around 500 revelers, mostly young, made the trip downtown to ring in 2010. That number was far short of what officials planned for.

A steady rain dumped on the town throughout the evening. Alternating between a trickle and downpour, it had people heading for shelter shortly after midnight.

Sgt. Scott Schuster was among the officers keeping Ashland's New Years crowd under control. More than any other factor, rain helped to keep the crowd safe and kept drunk drivers off the street, Schuster said.

"I would definitely say the inclement weather played a part in that," he said.

"It made for a pretty mellow night," he added. "There was nothing we responded to that I would say was a real dangerous situation."

The two DUI arrests were an increase over just one issued on New Year's 2009. Numbers for citations to minors in possession of alcohol were not immediately available.

Schuster and Smith both said they were largely pleased with the way residents handled themselves. The potential for problems often increases with the amount of time a crowd remains on the plaza. But Smith said much of the crowd was gone in a short period of time.

"I think typically what you see on New Year's is an influx of folks coming to the plaza shortly before midnight," he said. "That group stays around for a while, but does tend to dissipate quickly."

Elon Glucklich is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at eglucklich@gmail.com

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