J’Ouvert revelers should expect bag checks and check points at this year's celebration.
The parade, a lively and colorful event that takes place before the West Indian Day festivities in Brooklyn on Labor Day, has been plagued with violence in past years. This year, it kicked off at 6 a.m., instead of 2 a.m., in an effort to reduce violence.
The NYPD's presence will remain increased throughout the day by more than 10 percent -- about 300 additional cops -- compared with 2016, and there will be 12 secure entry points along the two-mile route, which starts at Grand Army Plaza and ends at Midwood Street, officials said.
As done in Times Square on New Year's Eve, revelers will be screened for weapons and alcoholic beverages. Large bags, including backpacks, will not be allowed into the parade route.
"J’ouvert is a celebration of Caribbean culture, and the NYPD is committed to making it safe for everyone,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said at a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio last month announcing the measures.
There will also be 30 percent more light towers than were used last year.
De Blasio said police will have a “zero tolerance attitude” toward any violence.
Violence has long plagued the annual celebration -- in 2015 two people were killed, including an aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, 43-year-old Carey Gabay. In 2016, four people were shot, resulting in two deaths.
Tiarah Payou, a 22-year-old St. John’s University graduate student, was struck and killed by gunfire at the tail end of the celebration. A suspect, Regenald Moise, now 21, was arrested on second-degree murder charges and his case is pending, said a spokesman for acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Earlier that morning, high school student Tyreke Borel, 17, was killed by gunfire as he sat on a bench near the celebration.
The deaths of Payou and Borel sparked calls by some community advocates and politicians for an end to J’ouvert. As a result, parade organizers sat down with police, city hall, neighborhood groups and politicians to come up with a plan to enhance security.
“We believe this plan developed with community leaders... strikes the right balance,” de Blasio said.
NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan said quality of life enforcement will occur both inside and outside the parade perimeter. Police will be keeping an eye out for drugs, and officers will have discretion on whether to issue a warning, summons or arrest someone.
“You’re going to have a very, very large police presence in the area,” he said.
O’Neill added that “no shootings on the parade route are acceptable.”
“This is the community coming together and collaborating,” he said.
"Violence interrupters,” usually former gang members, will also stand on street corners and look for signs of potential violence in an effort to prevent it from escalating, according to the mayor’s office.
The J’Ouvert Festival will be followed by the West Indian Day Parade at 11 a.m.
With Laura Figueroa and Anthony M. DeStefano