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Police prepared for anything this July 4

Because it's not clear how big the holiday crowds will be over the next week or so -- or when exactly they will show up -- Detroit Lakes Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten says the department is ready for anything.

"It's a difficult year to plan for," he said Friday, "because the Fourth itself is on a Wednesday. From a staffing standpoint, we don't know if this weekend will be the big weekend or if it will be next weekend."

So the police department is beefing up for Tuesday and Wednesday for sure, by bringing in freelance officers from other police departments, auxiliary sheriff's department officers and preparing its own staff to work overtime if necessary.

And it is planning for extra staff to work this weekend and next weekend if necessary, Eggebraaten said.

Detroit Lakes has traditionally been a big destination spot for Independence Day revelers. And with hot, mostly dry weather forecast for the next 10 days, the lakes area should be busy with visitors looking to relax and cool off.

The July 4 crowds have mellowed the past few years, and Eggebraaten hopes it stays that way. Before that, the crowds tended to be young partiers who kept police on their toes.

"Wednesday night we anticipate a large crowd like always," he said. "It's been a lot more of a family-oriented gathering as opposed to how it was 15 or 20 years ago -- one or two hours after the fireworks are done the town is relatively quiet again -- but if the rabble-rousers come back, we're prepared for that, too."

On Tuesday morning the "no left turn" signs will go up on selected intersections on West Lake Drive and Washington Avenue and parking will be prohibited on both sides of West Lake Drive.

The usual section of West Lake Drive and Washington Avenue will be closed to traffic entirely for the fireworks show, near the Pavilion.

Some locals don't like the temporary traffic restrictions, Eggebraaten said, but they are designed to make all the extra traffic flow smoothly, and to protect crowds of pedestrians during the fireworks show.

Police officers will also be patrolling Highway 34 between Detroit Lakes and the Ottertail River as part of the Safe and Sober campaign, Eggebraaten said.

All the measures are flexible and subject to changes based on conditions on the ground, he said.

"We want lots and lots of people to come and enjoy Detroit Lakes and have a great Fourth of July."

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