SALISBURY — Arrests in town are down along with motor vehicle accidents, but police Chief Thomas Fowler told selectmen this week he saw traffic on Juneteenth that he had “never seen before.”

Since it was a hot, sunny day and also a federal holiday, there were plenty of visitors in Salisbury.

“There were 17 beaches and lakes closed around the commonwealth – several in the North Shore – because of bacteria,” Fowler said. “We have a day where it’s 90 degrees plus, a lot of humidity, school’s done as well, so everybody came to Salisbury Beach.”

By 11:30 a.m., all lots were filled and the gridlock had begun. Salisbury police responded to numerous calls, including 12 for medical aid, eight related to parking issues, and four road rage incidents, he said.

“We had seven crashes we had to deal with, four hit-and-run crashes on top of those, one arrest,” Fowler said. “It’s hard to be proactive.”

He praised Officer Jay Davis for staying in the town square until 9 p.m. to direct traffic.

“He did a tremendous job,” Fowler said.

One other factor that Fowler said contributed to the issues June 19 was an unexpected move by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“We’re not surprised when DCR closes (Salisbury Beach State Reservation). They determined the park was not to be full and shut down the driveway after each row,” he said. “What they did Wednesday was they also blocked the exit that would take people leaving the Reservation west on Beach Road.”

It had a big impact, he said.

“Now, you have people coming out of the Reservation having to take a right and either go down and loop around Beach Road to try and go east or west or take a right on Cable Ave. looking for somewhere to park or go,” Fowler added.” And that dumped a whole bunch of traffic into the south end of the beach.”

He said his department will work with DCR in the future to ensure better traffic control.

Fowler also provided other updates to selectmen at their meeting Monday, including the latest department statistics on arrests, accidents, traffic stops, and criminal citations and warnings.

The police chief led off his report with some positive stats, noting that arrests in Salisbury are down 23% since his last report. His latest report covered the period since Jan. 1.

“This is a period where we’re not really at our busiest yet – January through June,” he said. “These numbers will probably look much different when I come back in December, from a period from today’s date moving forward into the summer.”

As for motor vehicle accidents, he said crashes dropped from 107 in his last report to 102.

“Five less crashes are always better than five more, but we research the top roads where these take place,” he said. “In order of frequency, the top roads are Elm Street, Lafayette Road, Bridge Road and Main Street. And the four top intersections, as you can imagine, correlates with that.”

Fowler shared year-to-date traffic statistics, including 862 stops, 60 civil citations issued, 235 criminal citations given out and 567 warnings.

“I have some really good officers that look beyond just the traffic stop and the initial violation,” the chief said. “And we issue a lot of warnings. Those are generally a regular driver we really don’t have a lot of contact with makes a mistake.”

In addition, he said the department has received $19,000 in state highway safety grants.

“Those will go toward enforcing distracted driving, enforcing speed limits, and then specifically OUI enforcement,” Fowler said. “So, each one of these grants is geared toward a specific issue that goes to help reduce crashes.”

Fowler also updated selectmen on the department’s roster.

“We have one chief, one lieutenant. You can see that we have 18 full-time sworn personnel,” he said.

The department also has two part-time sworn officers with a third to be sworn in by July 31. There are also nine full-time and three part-time dispatchers.

“They do a tremendous job,” he said. “They have fielded over 1,400 911 calls since the first of the year.”

Fowler wrapped up his presentation with discussion of the Blue Envelope Program, which he championed while president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.

The Blue Envelope initiative is aimed at fostering a safer and more understanding environment for drivers with autism spectrum disorder during traffic stops, according to

The core idea of the Blue Envelope Program is straightforward yet impactful. It involves a specially designed envelope that holds a driver’s essential documents – license, registration and a contact card.

Critical communication guidelines for police are printed on the envelope to assist officers in recognizing and adapting their approach when interacting with a driver who has autism.

“We have educated our officers on how people on the spectrum may react when they act,” Fowler said, “but this is an even better way for them to just present something to the officer with more information on how it affects that person and how that person may be acting during this interaction.”

He said anyone who could use a Blue Envelope can find one at the police station at 181 Beach Road.

Selectmen praised the department, particularly its handling of the beach traffic on Juneteenth.

“You had no options on a lot of things, and you guys all stayed calm and collected,” Vice Chairman Michael Colburn said.

Fellow Selectman Gil Medeiros echoed his thoughts.

“As usual, you guys are awesome. I commend all you guys and just keep up the great work and just keep going,” he said.

Matt Petry covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: