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Police work to keep Johnston parades safe

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SMITHFIELD — The town of Garner canceled its Christmas parade over safety concerns regarding a float from the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Johnston County town leaders said they’ve not experienced any disruptions, but they say public safety is an important issue.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had any threats of disruption in the past or current years during scheduled parades,” said Princeton Police Chief Tyrone Sutton. “We post undercover personnel in strategic zones to monitor any possible threats. We also have uniformed officers in plain view as a deterrent.”

“Our intent is to ensure the safety of our citizens as well as all spectators. It is crucial to maintain a safe environment at all times and during the holiday season,” said Sutton.

Clayton town spokeswoman Stacy Beard said Clayton works hard to ensure its community events are safe.

“We’ve also had to make difficult decisions to move or cancel major events due to threats of severe weather,” said Beard. “The safety of the public, participants and property is always the No. 1 priority and we certainly understand another town having to make a tough call because they feel the same.”

Smithfield police Capt. Ryan Sheppard said in his 20-plus years serving Smithfield, he’s only recalled one disruption.

“The greatest event that has ever occurred during our Christmas parade would be an officer seeing a subject that had warrants issued for their arrest and a short foot chase occurring when the officer initially attempted to make the arrest,” Sheppard. “The foot chase occurred about a block away from the parade route and had no impact on the event itself.”

Sheppard said there have been minor disruptions when teenagers get into a fight or when weather cancels the event.

“The chief of police, Capt. (James) Grady and I work closely with other town of Smithfield department heads and their staff to ensure the parade is a safe and enjoyable event for all those in attendance,” said Sheppard. “An action plan is completed to ensure our officers and supervisor are aware of their assignment as well as who they can call for assistance.”

Sheppard said it takes cooperation with other town departments, including the fire department, parks and recreation and the street department, to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

“Our team approach makes the town of Smithfield’s Christmas parade a safe, happy and most of all enjoyable experience for all those that choose to attend,” said Sheppard.

Upcoming Christmas Parades

• Kenly: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5.

• Princeton: 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.

• Wilson’s Mills: 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.

• Pine Level: 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8.

• Smithfield: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12.

• Clayton: 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.

• Micro: 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.

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