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Crowds Pose Big Task for Fair's Security Team

Fried food, wild rides and plenty of fun and games – that's why there's always a crowd at the state fair. And policing those crowds is a big job.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It's almost impossible to walk more than a few feet at the North Carolina State Fair without seeing a law enforcement officer.

This year, more than 400 officers from four agencies – 100 from both the Raleigh Police Department and Wake County Sheriff's Office, 30 from the State Capitol Police and 70 from the State Fairgrounds Police – are working the 10-day event with anywhere from 100 to 150 uniformed and plain-clothes officers on patrol at any given time.

"When you consider the number of security personnel and law enforcement that are here on the grounds at any given time, our numbers outweigh the numbers of any city in America," State Fairgrounds police Chief Joel Keith said.

And with approximately 90,000 people in one place on a typical day, there are going to be people who don't get along, he said.

Keith said that more officers means a quicker response to threats, such as a stabbing late Saturday night, in which one man was stabbed in the abdomen.

"Within just a few seconds, a Raleigh police officer had one of the suspects under arrest in handcuffs, laying face-down on the pavement," Keith said.

Officers use technology, such as surveillance cameras, to monitor the grounds. An on-site communications center and a Highway Patrol mobile command unit gets information out quickly.

They also monitor for disorderly conduct. In the past four days, officers have banned 21 people on a number of violations, including drugs, public intoxication, disorderly conduct and illegal protesting. One person was also kicked out for trying to steal a stuffed zebra. No one asked to leave will be allowed to return to the fair until next year.

Whether it's a lost child, a lost wallet, or someone who has lost his or her way, officers help fairgoers find a sense of security, Keith said.

Fairground police began planning its security strategy several months ago and meet every day during the fair to evaluate what they are doing and what their needs are.

"I'd feel safe enough to walk around all by myself," said Helga Williams, who was at the fair Tuesday with members of her retirement home community. "You feel safe, and if you have any problems, there's an officer nearby."


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