standing Westerly police 2

WESTERLY — Those who are not following state orders or town regulations over Memorial Day weekend can expect to find themselves dealing with an officer, Lacey said.

Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said Thursday that the department will increase staffing and enhance patrols, especially along the shoreline, in an effort to maintain a safe environment and encourage residents and visitors to follow social distancing guidelines and adhere to closures.

"It has been a slower start to the season because of restrictions, but we do not know what to expect this weekend," he said. "We are going to be prepared in the event there is heavy traffic or other issues, but remain hopeful that those considering a trip to the beach will consider and comply with all state orders and regulations."

Under state restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lacey said Misquamicut State Beach is to remain closed. That means the state will not allow for use of the parking lot either, which contains about 2,800 parking spots.

Lacey said local residents do have access to town beaches, but are asked to follow all usual regulations and restrictions, as well as social distancing guidelines. He said officers will be closely monitoring the town beaches with a focus on safety, including enforcing social distancing rules.

Several officers will be assigned to special patrols in both Misquamicut and Watch Hill, and that the department will use an ATV to patrol, as well as enhancing police presence in the normal high-traffic locations.

The agency will also use the services of six recently hired seasonal Community Service Officers, or CSOs. Those officers, who are able to issue basic citations such as parking tickets, will monitor traffic and parking in Watch Hill as well as being directed to aid with similar tasks in Misquamicut as needed.

He said the efforts are entirely focused on public safety and the goal is simply to gain the support and compliance of the public. 

"We are hopeful that the weekend will remain an uneventful one that people can enjoy with their families," Lacey said.

— Jason Vallee

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