Bikefest discussion draws safety summit, tips on crowd control

(Source: Stephanie Robusto)
(Source: Stephanie Robusto)
Held in Myrtle Beach, the summit brought in officials from across the country to give suggestions to Grand Strand leaders on how to control crowds during large events. (Source: Stephanie Robusto)
Held in Myrtle Beach, the summit brought in officials from across the country to give suggestions to Grand Strand leaders on how to control crowds during large events. (Source: Stephanie Robusto)
At this time, Grand Strand officials propose a 40 mile, one-way traffic loop to control crowds and traffic during the Memorial Day weekend. (Source: Stephanie Robusto)
At this time, Grand Strand officials propose a 40 mile, one-way traffic loop to control crowds and traffic during the Memorial Day weekend. (Source: Stephanie Robusto)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Control, security, and proactive patrolling were part of the discussion by law enforcement officials during the second day of the Special Events Summit.

Held in Myrtle Beach, the summit brought in officials from across the country to give suggestions to Grand Strand leaders on how to control crowds during large events, specifically the Bikefest held during Memorial Day weekend.

All of the cities represented have endured their own struggles with public safety issues during large-scale events. They shared their experiences with other law enforcement agencies to show what they have learned and how they handle those events.

"The biggest concern we get is when people don't respect a resident's property, their privacy, their city, or the environment," shared Police Chief Henry Porretto with the Galveston Police Department.

The community surrounding the Galveston Police Department is similar to Myrtle Beach. It is a top beach destination and brings in nearly six million tourists every year.

It's also the scene of one of the nation's largest Mardi Gras celebrations and sees 250,000 people for an unauthorized beach party event.

"Your first view of law enforcement is key, it's critical," explained Chief Porretto.

The Chief has critical advice for Myrtle Beach City leaders and law enforcement: be seen and get creative with proactive patrolling.

One example he suggests is to tow vehicles.

"It makes people move quickly. When they see one car get towed, it immediately clears out congested lots," he shared in front of the group.

He pointed out that part of bike rallies is "to see and be seen." His agency has seen a huge improvement in crowd control by enforcing a towing ordinance. It clears the problem while keeping officers on the streets.

Another suggestion is to look past traditional patrolmen and to consider motorcycle officers, gang officers, and mounted officers.

"They can maneuver through the crowd, people like horses, and it elevates them to give an officer a 360 degree look," Chief Porretto explained.

Chief Porretto and additional agencies stressed the issue of traffic control and flow.

At this time, Grand Strand officials propose a 40 mile, one-way traffic loop to control crowds and traffic during the Memorial Day weekend.

However, law enforcement officials in other cities hold similar events caution against that plan.

"When one person makes a turn around in an inappropriate place, others will follow, it causes a problem. They cross medians, businesses. If it is not manned properly, it will be a problem," shared Captain Lance Blanchette with the Daytona Beach Police Department.

His department works directly with traffic engineers to create a command post. It gives them control of major light cycles, pedestrian crossings, and access to more than one hundred traffic cameras. Officers can keep the flow of traffic moving smoothly, all by accessing that technology in real time.

Captain Blanchette also addressed issues surrounding the Daytona 500 to give Myrtle Beach police a way to understand how to properly plan for large-scale events.

"During that race, we see crowds four times larger than the Super Bowl," shared Captain Blanchette, explaining that crowd is contained in an area roughly a quarter of a mile.

The Daytona Beach Police Department places an emphasis on educating the public and communicating with the media.

"We can say 'here are the rules of engagement. If you stay within these perimeters you will have a fantastic event,'" Captain Blanchette said.

Another suggestion from other law enforcement agencies is to set up temporary substations. By placing it away from the rally, time and resources won't be spent on transporting offenders to jail.

Officers can get violators out of the area and they can get back to work.

The Special Events Summit continues Tuesday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

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