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Lodi police work to keep Grape Festival safe

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Posted: Saturday, September 14, 2013 12:00 am

With roughly 65,000 people expected to attend the Lodi Grape Festival this week, Lodi police have outfitted the event with a small piece of the department.

Between 20 and 28 motor officers, detectives, officers on bicycles and more are working the festival on any given night. Coordinating with the team is a dispatcher assigned solely to the Grape Festival. And a command post at the event will give officers the ability to book arrested suspects, conduct warrant checks and perform most other duties typically conducted at department headquarters.

“With us going around, we keep crime to pretty much a minimum out there,” Lodi Police Lt. David Griffin said.

Before the four-day event began, officers and a hired security guard team were briefed on typical crimes that occur at the festival, which include fights, burglaries of parked cars, and a variety of gang activity, Griffin said.

Some officers are positioned outside the entrance, to keep out anyone wearing gang clothing. They also watch for documented gang members, anyone who appears to be carrying a weapon and anyone with a warrant or wanted for questioning in connection with a crime.

“If we see them, we can deal with that then,” said Griffin, who added that police generally make at least five arrests during each day of the Grape Festival. “We can either arrest them or question them for the case we’re looking for.”

Griffin added that the majority of problems occur in the beer garden, where alcohol can lead to physical fights, and the carnival area, where gang members tend to congregate.

Last year, gang violence in the carnival area of the Grape Festival culminated in the stabbing of a 25-year-old documented Norteño gang member. Three juveniles were arrested near the scene.

In order to avoid criminal activity, Lodi police assign the majority of officers to patrol problem areas, Griffin said. Meanwhile, the private security team will check tickets at the entrance, make sure people aren’t sneaking in to the event, and assist with crowd control.

And roughly two dozen officers canvassing the festival help keep the crowds civil.

“Our job is just to maintain security, maintain the safety and integrity inside as well as outside the event,” Griffin said. “We also try to monitor the parking lot so no burglaries are happening to cars, no fights are going on after people leave or are coming in. We’re monitoring the traffic. It’s more for safety, more to be there as a presence to deter people from doing anything illegal.”

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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