Lodi Chamber puts focus on safety at events after Gilroy tragedy

Shoppers look at colorful windsocks and windmills during the Downtown Lodi Street Faire on May 5, 2019.

In the wake of last Sunday’s tragic Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting that left three victims dead and several injured, Lodi event organizers, city leaders and law enforcement officials continue to make safety a priority at local events.

“It was an unfathomable tragedy, one we are not taking lightly,” said Pat Patrick, president and CEO of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce. “We have begun conversations here at the Chamber about being safer at our local events.”

The Lodi Chamber hosts two major events, the spring and fall Street Faire and the Lodi Farmers Market.

Since the tragedy, chamber members have met with the Street Faire’s steering committee to discuss safety at events. Chamber members also plan to meet with the Lodi Police Department in the coming weeks to discuss event safety, re-evaluate the safety measures they currently have in place and make improvements where needed.

“We believe there is always room for improvement, and that is what we are after,” Patrick said.

According to Patrick, the Lodi Chamber currently has a police presence every street faire and market event. There are also at least 18 drivers in golf carts surveying the street faire who are equipped with two-way radios that allow them to communicate with chamber staff and first responders during an emergency or to bring attention to suspicious activity. During the market two bicycle officers are on duty from 4 to 9 p.m., and members of the Lodi Police Partners are constantly on patrol during the event.

“If we have a visible presence of police and first responders then that will be a deterrent,” Patrick said. “Is it 100 percent prevention that nothing will ever happen? No, but we can do our best to have a number of first responders on site at all times and highly visible. We have a pretty broad network of eyes, but we can always use more.”

Like Patrick, Lodi Grape Festival Manager Mark Armstrong was saddened by what transpired in Gilroy.

“This is such a senseless act involving a lot of innocent people. The same thought always goes through my head when these things happen: ‘Why?’ I wish that we didn’t ever have to deal with anything like this,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong and the rest of the Grape Festival staff are doing everything they can to make sure their events are safe. In addition to the Grape Festival, the staff also organizes two other major Lodi events, the Wine and Food Festival and the Beer Fest. Like the Lodi Chamber, the Grape Festival staff plans to meet with police to discuss their safety plan for the year.

“ I am always concerned (that something similar to Gilroy could occur). That is why we work hard with our staff, Lodi Police Department and our private security company to make this a safe event for everyone,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said that guests attending events at the festival grounds are required to pass through metal detectors at all gates and have their bags searched. There is also a strong police presence and a number of private security personnel along with rules and policies that prohibit weapons of any kind.

Stuart Spencer, executive director of the Lodi Wine Grape Commission, said that while the commission’s events aren’t on the same scale as the Gilroy Garlic Festival, they are also taking precautions to ensure safety.

“I think you’re always concerned about any kind of accident happening at any kind of event we do, and we try to take measures to prepare for those and anything that could potentially happen,” Spencer said.

According to Spencer, the Wine & Chocolate Weekend and Zinfest events bring in only a few thousand people. However, they have continued to work with police over the years to make sure their events are safe and reevaluate their safety plan annually.

According to City of Lodi spokesperson Jeff Hood, several measures have been put in place to make sure city-sponsored events are safe for attendees. The police department and city officials plan to meet next week to discuss the various events the city hosts, the security measures they already have in place and what they can do to improve them, Hood said. The city hosts several community events, including the annual 4th of July Celebration at Lodi Lake. During the celebration, police screen for weapons, alcohol and other objects that could lead to safety concerns.

Lodi Police Chief Tod Patterson says that while the department has several safety measures in place, it is also important for citizens attending events to be aware of their surroundings. He also suggested the use of technology to improve safety.

“Every time something like this happens you have to take a step back, slow things down and take a look at everything you are doing to see if there are any steps being missed,” Patterson said. “So at this time we are going to have further conversation to make sure we provide the best security and safety for the citizens of Lodi or anybody that attends an event in our town.”

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