MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Monday is the second of the three-day Special Events Summit in Myrtle Beach where safety and best practices concerning urban events will be the main topics of conversation.
The summit will take place at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center where Governor Nikki Haley and delegates from seven major police departments, the Department of Justice, and local law enforcement will brain storm solutions for the Memorial Day weekend violence. You can go here to see other topics they plan to discuss.
The major metropolitan cities that are attending this are Atlanta, Miami Beach, Daytona Beach, Virginia Beach, Austin, Galveston and Charlotte. Each city will make a presentation and then there will be round-table discussions to talk about new ideas that could also ensure safety to the public at an event like Bike Fest.
WMBF News reporter Katrina Helmer reached out to each of the seven departments that will be sending delegates to the summit. All of the cities have some sort of urban event that was either sanctioned or unsanctioned that ballooned in size very quickly and at some point got out of control. This summit is for these delegates to explain how they handled it, what works and what doesn't.
Delegates from Miami Beach, Daytona Beach and Austin all told WMBF that they plan to discuss traffic control, how to prevent mass casualty situations, petty violence, and technologies they are using.
In Miami Beach, Florida, Deputy Chief Hill says Ocean Drive gets clogged with cars that have to weave around pedestrians during major events. Hill says the best tactic they found was to completely close off traffic on Ocean Drive and just allow pedestrians.
In Daytona Beach, Captain Lance Blanchette says they have two bike week events that cause a lot of congestion on a few small streets. What they found allows them to have better control was to keep traffic moving at a very slow pace. Blanchette says that means the motorcycles don't have space or time to rev their engines or try to do tricks.
And in Austin, Texas, Chief Raul Munguia says they learned to alter the timing of their traffic light patterns. Munguia says once they changed it so that traffic was free-flowing in the evening after everyone left the events, then people weren't stopping and causing trouble.
In Miami Beach, Hill says planning and preparing for their events starts eight to nine months in advance. Their police department has a special events planning group that meets with businesses and other law enforcement departments to make sure everyone is on the same page. Hill says they also invest in print ads and radio ads to educate tourists, locals, and businesses how traffic management will affect them during the event.
Another topic all three police departments focused on was technology. Daytona Beach Police Captain Blanchette says they use tag readers to quickly track stolen or missing vehicles. And as soon as a suspicious tag pops up, the information then goes to their real-time center. There officers will track the vehicle as it drives through the city. Once it travels outside of any congested area, officers will be ready to stop the vehicle. Blanchette says this puts control back in the police department's hands. And when it comes to staffing, all neighboring departments are involved so that it's never a burden to tow a car or arrest someone because they are prepared.
The Austin Police Chief Munguia tells WMBF that their department saw a major difference in being able to better control their special events once they started implementing tourism-oriented policing. They drilled it into their officers to interact with visitors and to be approachable. Munguia says their officers will even carry maps and give suggestions to tourists on great places to visit. He said within a year of changing their mindsets and building this trust, they noticed people would come up to the officers before a disturbance or a fight would break out.
All three departments say it's important to keep in mind who the event is catering to, how many officers need to be on hand and balancing serious law enforcement with being approachable. Deputy Chief Hill said it's important to let people have a good time within the correct limits, because they are choosing to spend their time and money in your city.
Captain David Knipes with the Myrtle Beach Police Department says this is a growing experience for the department and the city and their goal is to create practical strategies they can put to use right away.
"We're going in with open eyes and open ears to discuss things," Says Captain Knipes. "We're going to have round-table discussions. And hopefully there's going to be some good ideas that come out that are beneficial to our plan, to our event. And it's going to make it a better, more organized event."
Read more about Bike Fest from Memorial Day weekend 2014 here:http://www.wmbfnews.com/story/26540414/atlantic-beach-responds-to-foia-request-over-3-months-later?autostart=true