CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Division of Police have been preparing for what may be one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades to be held downtown since its inception more than 140 years ago.
Event organizer Patrick Murphy said with the good weather and a weekend date, this year's parade could draw as many as 500,000 people to downtown Cleveland.
Cleveland Police Commander Harold Pretel said the department is cooperating with other law enforcement agencies in a joint effort known as the Joint Hazardous Assessment Team or J-HAT. The team is a collection of experts in hazardous materials, bomb detection, SWAT operations and weapons of mass destruction.
By having an expert readily available, Cleveland police are able to deal with any security situation that comes up during the event. J-HAT has been used for Cleveland Square lighting ceremonies and for the anniversary of 911. This is the first time the team will be used for the St. Patrick's Day parade.
Pretel said the use of J-HAT doesn't mean there is a threat to the parade.
"We're being proactive, we are trying to be preventive here. The key thing is, if we're aware, then certainly we can take some action."
Pretel also reminds people attending Saturday's event to have a good time, but be watchful.
"All we ask is that if you see something that's just not right, you know what's right, you've been to parades before, if something's not right, please say something."
Cleveland Police also suggest some family safety tips to remember:
1. Do not drink and drive. Sobriety checkpoints will be set up before and after the parade.
2. If you have any safety issues, contact a police officer, a member of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, the RTA police, even an RTA bus driver. If the situation is serious enough, call 911.
3. Families should have a parade plan. Decide on a place to meet in case you become separated from one another. For younger children, Commander Pretel suggests using a marking pen to write the family phone number on the hand of your child. This will make contacting you about your lost child easier.
More safety tips and parade information can be found on the Cleveland Police website and the Cleveland Irish Parade websites. Click on the links below.
The following roads will be closed on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.:
-Superior Ave. from E. 26 St. to East Roadway
-East Roadway from Superior Ave. to Rockwell Ave.
-Rockwell Ave. from Ontario St. to East 9 St.
-East 6 St. from Rockwell Ave. to St. Clair Ave.
-East 6 St. from Superior Ave. to St. Clair Ave.
-East 17 St. from Superior Ave. to Rockwell Ave.
-East 18 St. from Rockwell Ave. to Payne Ave.
-Payne Ave. from East 18 St. to East 21 St.
-East 3rd (Superior to Rockwell)
These streets will also be closed to traffic during the parade:
-East 21st & St. Clair southbound
-East 17th St & Payne Ave northbound
-East 18th St & Rockwell Ave southbound
-Rockwell Ave between East 12th to east 21st southbound
The parade starts at 1:04 p.m.
Last year's festivities, which fell on a Thursday, also involved a few arrests after the parade when fights broke out in Public Square. The melee continued for hours and Tower City was shutdown for a brief time as Cleveland police tried to control the crowd.
During last year's revelry, the nearly 7,000 parking spaces at the area's RTA rapid stations were full by noon. RTA spokesperson Mary McCahon told NewsChannel5 that the busiest time for RTA is immediately after the parade ends.