Gang Concerns Prompt Tight Security At State Fair
Posted October 16, 2006 6:05 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — Gang concerns at this year's state fair have local law enforcement agencies working harder to keep identified gang members off the fairground.
The State Fairgrounds Police Force is making it a priority to look for potential gang members who go to the fair to recruit new members.
"The commissioner of agriculture told us clearly: 'Keep this place safe and keep it family-friendly,' and that's what we're trying to do," said State Fairgrounds Police Chief Joel Keith.
Anywhere from 100 to 150 officers from multiple agencies -- including the Raleigh Police Department, State Capitol Police, Wake County Sheriff's Office, and private security firms -- patrol the fairground looking for clothing, colors and symbols that might indicate someone is part of a gang.
Potential gang members are denied access to the fair or are asked to leave.
"Anything that goes on that we don't think is appropriate, we'll eject them from the North Carolina State Fair," Keith said. "We want to keep this place so everyone comes out and has a great time."
This past Saturday, nearly 95,000 people visited the fair. Authorities say that with thousands of people visiting the fair each day, there is always going to be some element of crime. The goal, however, is to keep it to a minimum.
Fairgoers said Monday the security presence makes them feel safe.
"If you look around, the police are patrolling everywhere. We do feel good about it," said Rhonda Johnson, who traveled from Eden with her family.
"You have little gangs and stuff, and with the security of the cops and stuff," said Angela Fitzgerald, of Raleigh, who attended the fair with her husband. "It slows it down."