MSP: Safety is number-one priority at EF

June 18, 2015
Michigan State Police troopers stand guard during the 2014 Electric Forest Festival.

Michigan State Police troopers stand guard during the 2014 Electric Forest Festival.

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

Electric Forest Festival coverage is sponsored by Springstead Law Offices, with locations in Hart and Fremont, 231-873-4022 (Hart),www.springsteadlaw.com.

GRANT TWP. — As one of the largest music festivals in the nation descends upon the small Rothbury community, the Michigan State Police are prepared to make the experience a safe one for everyone involved and impacted by it.

Springstead_EFF_050415The Electric Forest Festival is set for next week, June 25-28, at the Double JJ Resort. The event, which attracts 40,000 or more people from across the nation and Canada, sold out last February just one day after the lineup was announced. The schedule was released earlier this month, as well as the announcement of two additional stages, the Hangar and Jubilee. Headlining the event are The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Skrillex, Kaskade, Flume and Big Gigantic, along with over 100 other performers.

An event of this magnitude makes safety a number-one priority for local law enforcement. The Michigan State Police, which is contracted by the festival to handle public safety, will have personnel on site from posts across the Lower Peninsula, said F/Lt. Jeff White of the Hart post. The exact number of officers on site is not being divulged, although White said troopers from “all corners of the Lower Peninsula” will be there.

A six-figure contract with MSP allows the festival to have a safe environment “at no cost to the tax payers,” White said. Security is handled by a private firm hired by event organizers, and includes hundreds of staff members. Horse-mounted security patrol is also on hand for crowd control.

The huge amount of troopers on site at EF does not leave the posts short-staffed, White said. “There is no loss of coverage at the posts,” he said, because the troopers at EF are on overtime. “Every minute of this mobilization is on overtime,” the lieutenant said.

“It’s an endeavor, and we take it very seriously,” White said. A big part of MSP’s duties is traffic safety, particularly handling the “ingress and egress” of motorists entering and leaving the grounds. MSP works closely with local wrecker services that are contracted by the festival, so disabled vehicles can be quickly moved out of the way of oncoming traffic. MSP is constantly monitoring and controlling traffic.

Some troopers are assigned to “specialist services,” such as communications, information technology (IT) and undercover work.

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Horse-mounted security patrol is also on hand for crowd control.

“Every minute a trooper is working,” White said. MSP handles criminal complaints, whereas security handles the “rowdy” situations, he said. “If it rises to a criminal level, we take care of that.”

There have been a number of smartphone thefts and pick pocket complaints during past festivals, White said, and MSP is on the lookout for these types of crimes, as well as drug-related incidents. “We are out there targeting predators and drug dealers,” the lieutenant said. “We are there to keep festival goers safe. We are constantly on the lookout for predators.”

Keeping a festival of this size safe requires significant planning. “It is a large event and requires a lot of coordination,” White said. There have been numerous meetings throughout the year with various law enforcement and emergency personnel, including prosecutors, jail staff and EMS.

MSP is also equipped to handle terrorism situations. “We are constantly mining for intelligence,” White said, by working with the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center. Known as a fusion center, it provides 24-hour-a-day statewide information sharing among local, state and federal public safety agencies and private sector organizations in order to facilitate the collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence relevant to terrorism and public safety.

“Public safety is our absolute concern,” White said.

The Rothbury festival began in 2008 and returned in 2009. There were no festivals at Double JJ in 2010. Then, in 2011, Electric Forest began and has continued every year. MSP has handled public safety at every single festival since the first event in 2008.

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