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City says no to request to cut police at festival

SALISBURY — Organizers of the annual Memorial Week Celebration carnival at the J.C. Price American Legion Post want the city to send fewer police officers to the event and waive the $1,400 fee charged for police protection.
But city officials said the large police presence at the carnival has served as a deterrent after a major event in 2008.
The carnival is the biggest fundraiser for the Price post, which uses the proceeds to host Halloween parties, Easter egg hunts, dinners and other events throughout the year, Mae Carroll told City Council members last week.
But attendance at the carnival has fallen and last year, the post had to dip into savings to cover the $1,400 fee, Abe Daniels said.
The carnival has been running for more than 50 years and will take place at 1433 Old Wilkesboro Road May 23 through June 3.
“We bring Disneyland to an underserved population that will never see Disneyland,” Carroll said.
The heavy police presence in recent years — 11 officers — has kept people from attending, Daniels said.
“We are not making the kind of money we used to,” he said.
The number of police officers and amount of police equipment sent to the event make it “look like an armed camp,” he said. Covering the cost of the police officers started as a donation, Daniels said, but “now it seems to be mandate.”
City Council last week approved the temporary use permit for the carnival with the same conditions:
• Ten police officers and one supervisor on duty at all times.
• All alcohol kept inside the post building with none in the carnival area.
• Salisbury police chief can close the event if problems arise.
City Council members agreed to City Manager Doug Paris’ suggestion that the approval process for the temporary use permit start earlier next year, in January. This would give the post four months to market and advertise the event and attract a larger turnout, Paris said.
The city also plans to help cover the cost of the post’s Easter egg hunt April 21, Mayor Paul Woodson said.
Paris provided a lengthy memo to City Council about the carnival, detailing his recommendation that security levels remain the same. The increased police presence in recent years has served as an effective deterrent, he said.
City Council originally placed conditions on the temporary use permit for the carnival after an incident in 2008, Paris said.
In 2007, police were called to the post 10 times for disturbances at the carnival as well as during private parties at the post, including the death of Treasure Feamster, 13, who died during a shooting in the parking lot, Paris said.
In 2008, there were multiple fights at the carnival, he said, including a major event where a crowd of hundreds began throwing rocks and bottles at police officers who were arresting a suspect, Paris said. The back window of a police car was shattered, and it took numerous law enforcement officers from the city and county to disperse the crowd, he said.
In 2009, police officials and Price post leaders met to come up with a security plan for the carnival, Paris said. Officers seized a gun during the event that year and thwarted a potential shooting, thanks to the security plan and increased presence of police, Paris said.
There have been minimal disturbances at the carnival since 2010, Paris said.
“After the death of a teenager and a major event in 2008, the security plan put in place by the Salisbury Police Department has been effective,” he said. “The police presence deters potential incidents from occurring.”
While the city understands the post’s desire to make more money on the event, safety and security come first, Paris said. He suggested the group find sponsorship funds for the 2015 carnival to help boost revenue.
Woodson said City Council was not prepared this year to consider changing the security arrangements.
Carroll, who had asked for approval for this year’s carnival before March 1 so she could start advertising, told the Post that earning the nod from City Council in January 2015 will help with next year’s event, if the carnival continues. She said there is a chance this will be the last carnival.
Other organizations with events in May start advertising in February, she said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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