Niagara Gazette

Crime

August 26, 2013

Local law enforcement says Artpark concert crowds pushing them to breaking point

Local law enforcement: Artpark crowds pushing them to breaking point

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — Some weeks it’s a front row seat to a couple having sex on the hillside.

Others, it’s watching a woman body surfing on the roof of a speeding car leaving the upper parking lot.

For Greg Robertson, the owner of Greg’s Pools in Lewiston, there is no way to know just what he’ll see outside his Seneca Street business when Artpark’s Tuesday in the Park concert series crowds roll into the village.

“Actually, if anything, it’s gotten a bit better than they used to be when they were free,” Robertson says. “But it’s still bad.”

While the crowds for the concerts now tend to top out at 10,000 people, as opposed to some at 30,000 when the events were free, the combination of traffic, parking, drinking, littering and other quality of life and criminal issues still places a strain on local law enforcement. 

A Gazette review of incident reports during the times of concerts on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the summer shows the number of calls police respond to can be as much as 10 times higher than normal.

On a recent Tuesday, Lewiston police, who do get some assistance from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police, handled 26 incidents and traffic stops before, during and after the Artpark concert. Those incidents included a driving while intoxicated arrest, two marijuana possession arrests, a public lewdness arrest, and multiple public drinking citations

Lewiston Police K-9 Officer Scott Stafford, and his partner Radar, have been around since the concerts started. They’ve seen the crowds at their best — and worst.

“The percentage of people acting up is actually small, but the way we deter (trouble) is with a heavy police presence,” he said.

On a normal concert night, while on patrol with Stafford, a reporter notes Lewiston Police have deployed two bicycle officers, two officers on ATVs and eight patrol officers in cars in addition to its K-9 unit. 

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