Miami police stress safety during Ultra Music Festival
MIAMI - Nearly 170,000 people will descend on downtown Miami and Bayfront Park this weekend for the three-day Ultra Music Festival.
People from all over the world come to the Magic City for the event.
Miami police safety is the name of the game. Because the festival has been held before at the park, police feel like it's a turf they know well, and rather than reinventing the wheel, they plan to continue to do what they have done in years past which they believe has worked.
Undercover officers will be inside the venue and swarms of law enforcement officers will be scattered throughout the area. It worked.
Last year, only 18 arrests were made and most were drug-related.
Miami Police Chief Manny Morales said while drug issues were a majority of problems at the event, people trying to sell party drugs like ecstasy or edibles.
On top of drugs, there was another issue that has popped up in previous years - phone thefts.
"We received somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred online reports of phones that were either lost or stolen during the three day event. So I just want to remind our attendees that are going to Ultra to be mindful of their phones, I know everybody likes to live stream and be on social platforms, I just want you to enjoy it but make sure you keep your phones in your front pocket," said Morales.
To be proactive, here are some tips from Apple on what to do if your phone is lost or stolen.
- Try to track your device on a map
- Mark it as lost
- Report the missing device to law enforcement
- File a theft and loss claim
- Remotely erase your device if you can
When asked what his biggest concern was, drugs, weapons, or thefts, Morales said it was something much more terrifying.
"The possibility of either an active shooting or just gang related or some sort of violent crime that spirals out of control and causes some sort of stampede as we have seen in other events. Even though we have contingency plans to handle all of this, that's kind of what keeps me awake at night," he said.
To keep the event as safe as possible, Miami police will be working with members of other law enforcement agencies to patrol the massive crowds that are expected.
There are some changes this year.
First off, no backpacks. Bags that are acceptable are clutch purses, clear 13 in. by 17 in. bags, and hydration backpacks.
Police say they will be preaching the gold standard "If you see something, say something."
They will also have an amnesty box in the front where people can drop off any illegal substances so they can avoid any issues.
"Having officers on site, making sure that the officers are aware, that they're vigilant, that they stay on post, and that they're aware of their surroundings so they can find individuals that appear to be out of place or acting in a suspicious manner. These are the best deterrence. When you're ready, you have a plan, you have officers that are ready to go and ready to do in case of emergency happens, so that's how we're getting ready to keep Miami safe," said Morales.
Ultra is not just a wildly popular event among the electronic music crowd, it's also an economic driver for the city and surrounding areas.
"The economic impact is nearly $200 million for the week of Ultra here in Greater Miami, South Florida. That's people coming to town, staying at the hotels, going to the restaurants, renting cars, and going to other clubs and other destinations afterward. So it's a huge impact," said Ultra's chief of security Raymond Martinez.
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