Christmas And New Year’s: A Tale Of Two Holidays For First Responders
By: James Kinsella
New Year’s Eve may be coming up tomorrow night, but the Barnstable police likely are more relieved that Christmas has come and gone.
“Christmas gets a lot of people stressed out,” Barnstable Police Sergeant Sean Sweeney said.
As a result, Christmas, and especially the week to 10 days proceeding the holiday, is a really busy time for the Barnstable police.
“We were running out of cars to send on calls,” Sgt. Sweeney said.“There are more traffic accidents,” he said. “There are a lot of larcenies. You have drunk driving, drug use, people are out partying. You see a big increase in shoplifting.”
Domestic violence also rises.The season may be emphasizing “Joy to the World,” he said, but when joy does not come, people can get depressed. Drinking and fighting can ensue.
More people also threaten to commit suicide, he said.In contrast, Sgt. Sweeney said, New Year’s Eve, despite its traditional emphasis on drinking, is not nearly as busy.
For the Barnstable police, the impact of the holiday pales next to that of a hot summer weekend.
“We might bring in a couple extra people” for New Year’s Eve, he said. “I’m sure there will be drunk drivers.”
But he said people try to plan their activities for New Year’s Eve. Some people who will be partying will make arrangements to stay at a hotel, he said, rather than risk driving home themselves.
He said the Christmas season, in contrast, is a time of spontaneity, of chance encounters that do not always turn out well.
The Christmas season brings an increase in traffic and a consequential increase in accidents, according to Deputy Chief Phil Field of the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire Department.
Deputy Chief Field of C-O-MM said Christmas lights and candles also can pose fire hazards.
But he said the number of drinking-related accidents at the holidays is down drastically from years ago, especially for New Year’s Eve.
“New Year’s is a non-event,” he said.Deputy Chief Dean Melanson of the Hyannis Fire Department also spoke of a drop over past years in drinking-related accidents around New Year’s.
Christmas, Deputy Chief Melanson said, is a mix of the kinds of calls that the Hyannis department usually gets on a daily basis.
Deputy Chief Melanson did say that the extended heating season, which starts in October and runs through the holidays to April, can pose additional problems this time of year, such as carbon monoxide poisoning or fireplace fires that end up smoking up a house.
Police officers and firefighters also can find themselves required to work the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Sgt. Sweeney said Barnstable police officers work a rotation that remains in place despite the holidays.
The sergeant was among the officers who worked on Christmas.
He did say Christmas is the one holiday a year when officers with more seniority can request a different shift.
At the Hyannis Fire Department, which runs 24-hour shifts, firefighters rotate through the holidays.
Deputy Chief Melanson said older or single firefighters sometimes will swap their shifts with firefighters who have younger children.
At C-O-MM, Deputy Chief Field said, some shift swaps do occur. Some firefighters also will come in for three or four hours during a shift to give other firefighters a chance to spend that time with their families.
And sometimes, if firefighters cannot get away, their families will come in and pay them a visit.
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