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More security, medical aid ready for FreakNight crowd
The security strategy for managing thousands of this weekend’s FreakNight concertgoers has dramatically changed this year to avoid the problems that private security, police and paramedics had at last year’s event.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Multiple drug overdoses, assaults and an unruly crowd of about 22,000 people overwhelmed private-security workers, police and paramedics at last year’s FreakNight event in Seattle.
To make sure that doesn’t happen again at the two-day electronic dance concert that starts Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the WaMu Theater, CenturyLink Field security and the Seattle Police Department have changed their security strategy for the event.
According to a Seattle Police Department report, last year’s event did not have enough private-security workers managing crowds inside and outside the event.
The company in charge of scheduling off-duty police officers for the event, Seattle’s Finest Police Security & Traffic Control, had about 21 staff members funneling thousands through one entrance.
Because of the slow-moving line, people were getting drunk and overdosing on drugs before they entered the venue, according to the SPD report.
Medics responded to seven calls on the first night, all involving alcohol or drug use, according to Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore. Medics took four patients to hospitals in critical condition.
Inside the event, an off-duty Seattle officer used force on a suspect who assaulted him, and an on-duty SPD sergeant was called to investigate.
The report also says a young woman called police to report being sexually assaulted inside the event but left no further contact information because she didn’t want her parents to find out.
The Police Department eventually amped up its on-duty presence outside the event from a handful of officers to 44 to manage crowd traffic, prevent violence and help people with medical problems
This year, there will be about 150 more private security personnel inside, according to Adam Link, general manager for CenturyLink Field. The security staff will include people who have never been sworn officers and also off-duty police officers — but none from SPD.
Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson said the department’s off-duty officers won’t be allowed to work this year’s event because the presence of drugs presents a potential conflict of interest.
Department policy prohibits off-duty officers from working at raves because it could possibly be in the interest of the private company hiring the officer to not report illegal activity.
“We don’t want to put an officer in that position,” Jamieson said.
Jamieson said the department will have some presence this year managing traffic outside but did not say how many officers would be there.
On-duty officers will still respond to emergencies, he said.
Jamieson added that he did not know if the department would use undercover officers.
To reduce crowds outside, Link said, there will be two entrances this year to admit ticket-holders, who will not have in-and-out privileges.
The event’s creator, United State of Consciousness Events, also hired a safety adviser to help reduce the possibility of medical emergencies and drug usage, according to its spokesman Alex Fryer.
The adviser, Edwin Reyes, coordinated with CenturyLink Field and the Seattle Fire Department to make sure there are enough free water stations, about 30 volunteer safety ambassadors, and medical personnel on hand each night.
The Seattle Fire Department will be increasing its 2012 presence from 19 on-scene paramedics and EMTs to 21 this year.
The event company also coordinated with King County Department of Community and Human Services and the University of Washington to launch a public information campaign this month called “The Message.”
The campaign focuses on staying safe at electric dance music events and sends ticket holders information via email and social media.
Reyes says the campaign doesn’t focus on telling youth what not to do — just the end result of bad decisions. He said he wants concertgoers to feel safe coming forward with medical emergencies even if it involves illegal activity — something the state’s Good Samaritan law encourages and protects.
“Threatening people with the age group we cater to doesn’t work,” said Reyes. “They want to explore things. We just want them to know what the end result is and educate.”
Jamieson said police will also honor the Good Samaritan law.
Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.