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Safety emphasized on year's 'biggest party night'

Photo courtesy of The City of Buffalo

Holiday partiers heading downtown tonight can expect to see more police on the streets and up in the air. 

Tonight is generally considered the "biggest drinking night of the year," when people home for the holidays get together with friends and family for a night out on the town.  Safety is on the minds of many, especially when alcohol is involved.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says the Police Department will be premiering its newest crime fighting tool, called Skywatch, on Chippewa Street tonight.  The unit functions as a mobile watch tower.

"It can go up high. You can put a police officer in it who is elevated above the crowd who can see what is happening on the street more clearly," Brown said Wednesday morning.

The $200,000 Skywatch unit is outfitted with communication equipment, surveillance cameras, spotlights, and loudspeakers for crowd control.   Brown says it has been an effective crime deterrent in other cities.  

"We want people to come down in droves, but we want to make sure that their safety is ensured," the mayor added.

Designated Drivers of Buffalo is reminding revelers of its service, where a team of vetted, professional drivers transports both individuals and their vehicles home when they are unable to drive themselves. 

Owner and CEO Michael Mule says inebriated people often decide to try to drive because they're worried about what might happen if they leave their vehicles behind.

"A lot of people forego a taxi, saying they need their car for whatever reason," says Mule, citing excuses of needing their car for work, not wanting someone to find out they've been drinking excessively, or fearing vandalism or tickets from left vehicles.

"Our service will allow people to go out and enjoy themselves without having to worry about getting themselves and their vehicle home at the end of the night."

Mule says the four-year-old company will have at least double its regular staff for tonight, with 15-20 driver teams available throughout the night.  Company drivers and tested and background checked before they are hired, and always wear a uniform and a badge.  Friends in one's group can also be dropped off in a single trip.

The service is available from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. tonight.  Fees range from $25 to $35, plus $2.50 to $3.50 for mileage, depending on whether a client is a member. Reservations are recommended, but not required.  The number to call is 716-713-7703. 

Monday - Friday, 10 a.m.. - 2 p.m.