Law enforcement agencies across the country will face different challenges in managing New Year’s Eve celebrations this year. Large-scale public celebrations have mostly been cancelled, and restaurant and bar capacity has been greatly diminished. But neighborhood social gatherings, “celebratory” gunfire, violent crime, and traffic safety remain concerns. PERF spoke with police officials from New York City, New Orleans, Boston, and Los Angeles about how they are preparing for the holiday.

NYPD Chief of Department Terry Monahan

New Year’s Eve is completely different this year. There is no celebration open to the public in Times Square. There is still going to be an event there, from 41st to 49th Street. No one from the public is going to be allowed. They’re bringing in 450 paid actors to stand in the various pens, so that when TV cameras pan, it will look like there’s a crowd there. A lot of celebrities are coming, and there will be performances on the stages.

One problem is that the ball can be seen north of 49th Street all the way up to Central Park, so we’re going to have to move people and message that people won’t be allowed to gather there to watch the ball drop.

The challenge for us is to keep out anyone who typically comes to Times Square for New Year’s. We still have to worry about terrorism, because it will be a nationally-televised event. We still have to have our cops there, but the number of cops we’re going to assign there is down 80% compared to years past.

Thinking back to the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, we have to cover hotels and make sure nothing comes from a hotel room. We have cops assigned to every hotel in that area.

Other events around the city have been cancelled, like the fireworks show that’s normally held.

Our biggest concern is the gunfire. We’re up about 100% in shootings this year compared to last year, with no signs of that slowing down as we come into the winter months. What helps us is that we can push a lot of the resources we would normally bring to Times Square out to the commands where we’re seeing the violence. We will have a strong presence out there on patrol.

We’re not doing social distancing enforcement. The New York City Sheriff’s Office does all the social distancing enforcement.

We’re starting to be hit pretty hard with COVID again. We’re up to over 6% out sick right now. We’ve had over 1,100 positive COVID tests in December alone. We’re hoping those numbers start to come down, but every day we have more and more people testing positive and we’re losing those resources on the street.

Two police academy classes were cancelled with the “defund” movement, so we were down close to 3,000 police officers who would normally be on the street. Luckily, we just put another 590 into the academy today and another 900 in October. That’s great, but they’re sitting in the police academy and I’m not going to have them out on the streets this weekend.

We’ll be out there enforcing drunk driving, trying to prevent the accidents that go along with it.

So it’s going to be a really busy night, with different challenges.

New Orleans Superintendent of Police Shaun Ferguson

Our governor is considering stricter COVID guidelines. We have a slightly higher than 5% positivity rate in the city of New Orleans. An increase in that rate usually triggers changes in the guidelines. If that does happen, which is what we’re expecting, we’re going to close all indoor bar areas. They will be allowed to have a 25% outdoor capacity, and will close at 11 p.m. We are expecting that change in guidelines by New Year’s Eve night. That, along with the weather forecast of rain, will help us.

But we still have some challenges we’re concerned about, mainly with the Dick Clark Show and the Fleur de Lis drop we do here in New Orleans. We have restricted some access to the French Quarter, to hopefully discourage gatherings. There will be no one in attendance at the Fleur de Lis drop and various performances. Performances will be televised nationally, but they will be closed to the public.

We have cancelled all other events. The fireworks along the Mississippi River that we normally do have been cancelled.

We’re also hosting the Sugar Bowl, which is one of the games for the college football championship. A maximum of 3,000 can attend the game itself on New Year’s Day, but we expect a crowd when we host a team like Clemson, which is pretty close to New Orleans. We had a large crowd from Clemson come to New Orleans last year when they played LSU in the national championship. I’m waiting for numbers from our hospitality industry to find out what we should be expecting. But we have restricted access to the French Quarter to hopefully discourage social gatherings.

The New Orleans Police Department is under a furlough. All city employees, including our officers, have a mandatory furlough day each pay period. That’s a challenge, as our supervisors schedule furlough for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. We’re able to overcome that with some support from our state partners. The Louisiana State Police will be in New Orleans the next few days to assist with staffing. And we’re strategically moving our officers and even putting some of our detectives in uniform in the field. We need to patrol not just the French Quarter areas for the New Year’s Eve crowd, but also other communities for gunfire that we’re concerned about.

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross

We have no planned events whatsoever. All of the First Night celebrations have been cancelled. The mayor and the governor are holding press conferences over the next two days to inform the public in the city and the commonwealth that there will be no First Night celebrations.

Our Media Relations people will use the next couple days to publicize the CDC guidance and protocols with our communities and our police officers. Right now, the Police Department has an uptick in COVID-19.  229 of my 2,100 sworn officers are out. That’s going to greatly impact how we do business.

But I’m lucky here in Boston. The troops are still motivated, despite the pandemic and the anti-police sentiment that exists in a lot of places.

We’re going to be in each and every neighborhood. Everyone is aware of what happened in Nashville, so that’s a concern in Boston. Our Boston Regional Intelligence Center, along with the state police and the fusion center, has no information about credible threats to the city or commonwealth thus far.

We pulled back our deployment a bit, but I’ve assigned additional personnel to each of my 11 districts, because we definitely expect an increase in radio calls. In our message to the community, we leave a number where they can call or text us anonymously, because we want them to be our eyes and ears. So far that’s worked great. We have recovered 777 firearms from the streets, and 444 were firearms arrests. The community is our eyes and ears, so we’re going to utilize them.

We anticipate large, unruly parties in certain areas of the city, so we’ll have to address that. Historically we have a lot of gunplay on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I’m going to utilize my gang unit, my specialized unit, and my drug control unit to address any gang conflict or revelers using firearms.

LAPD Assistant Chief Horace Frank

We are pretty much on a lockdown, although if you looked outside you wouldn’t believe it. The businesses are certainly affected, but people are up and around. The low-risk retail businesses have to be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Parties and large gatherings are restricted.

Our big concern, especially on New Year’s Eve, is people having parties. We have our vice units and senior lead officers surveying the social media landscape in search of underground parties. We’re going to try to have a visible presence at those locations before the parties happen, to try to deter them. The goal is voluntary compliance.

We tell our officers to try to get voluntary compliance. For those who don’t comply, we’ll cite them. But we don’t want to make physical arrests, because it’s not going to be a pretty picture. If people won’t take a citation, we tell our officers to post it on the door and take a picture of it.

All our bureaus and areas are preparing for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Most of the events we know of have been cancelled, but we learned from the July 4th celebrations that we can anticipate large amounts of illegal fireworks, and many residential gatherings. Our areas are going to be using their senior lead officers and community relations officers to conduct community outreach ahead of time, with an emphasis on locations that have a history of shots fired and fireworks. They know those locations, so we’re going to use outreach and make sure we have units there for a very visible presence.

Areas will use social media platforms to provide education and awareness flyers about fireworks. We have a fireworks complaint portal being set up through the city to handle any fireworks-related calls. People will go into the web-based portal, provide all the information in their report, and it will be forwarded to our communications division. The communications division will sort through those calls and assign them to the areas. We’ll have patrol officers respond and handle those fireworks-related calls.

Gunfire reduction is very big concern for us, especially because, as of last Saturday, we’re up 34% in homicides year to date and up 38% in shooting victims. All our gang enforcement units and crime suppression details will be maximally deployed.

Traffic will be a huge concern for us. As of yesterday, we’re only down 3% in fatal traffic collisions. With the stay-at-home order that’s been in place since March, you would hope those numbers would be much better. We’re maximally deploying all our traffic resources and will have checkpoints set up. We’ll take the necessary precautions for COVID, but we will set up checkpoints looking for impaired drivers.


The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.