by Terry Duffy
With week two of Artpark concert "heavies" now passed, Lewiston Police Department Chief Chris Salada says area law enforcement overall has been up to the task in addressing the bigger than normal crowds, the very heavy traffic and various uncertainties.
Over the past two weeks, Artpark has seen record attendance, which has triggered concerns by village officials. Salada reports that police, be they for crowd patrols or traffic patrols on village streets and town roadways, have responded and adjusted.
"We adjusted after the first show. After Lynyrd Skynyrd we found out where our problems are and adjusted," Salada said. He pointed out LPD cars are now being assigned to different areas of the town to facilitate traffic, and his officers along with others from area police agencies are better handling problems.
Over the past two weeks, police manpower for the Artpark shows has been at the max. In addition to State Parks Police, private security and State Police assigned inside the Artpark grounds, the forces on local streets have included: the Lewiston Police with a full staff of 15 officers assigned; the Niagara County Sheriff's Office with two patrol vehicles, two to four horse patrols, two bike patrols and eight auxiliary police officers for traffic; the New York State Police supplying two patrol cars; the Town of Niagara Police with five officers; the U.S. Border Patrol with one patrol officer and two on bikes; and the Youngstown Police with one officer.
"We needed as many officers as we could muster up," said Salada, who described the recent Artpark crowds as "enormous."
Despite that, he said he's been able to keep a check on problems on village streets. "We had a handful of complaints" from Tuesday, said Salada. "The biggest I heard from the village residents was their inability to get around."
He also said the State Police has been a major help in coordinating the heavy traffic from Buffalo on the State Thruway onto area roads.
Overall, LPD this week logged 30 open container violations, plus arrests for public lewdness, felony DWI and possession of stolen property from the ZZ Top show. Reports on Wednesday's OAR show or Thursday's "Rolling Papers" Tour featuring Wiz Khalifa were unavailable as the Sentinel went to press.
Looking ahead, Salada said he feels the worst of it has now passed. "Our two biggest concerts have been this week," he said. "The others won't be as big and we're better prepared to handle them now."