A Johnson City Police Department officer conducts a bike patrol during the 2013 Blue Plum Festival.
Johnson City police link their use of bike patrols during the 2013 Blue Plum Festival to a decrease in that festival’s crime rate and their use of bike patrols will be increased for all downtown festivals.
According to Johnson City Police Department Lt. Larry Williams, who was the officer in charge of Blue Plum Festival security, there were six arrests for public intoxication, four arrests for disorderly conduct, two arrests for car burglary, one driving on suspended arrest, nine people charged with under age consumption, 35 parking tickets, 16 vehicles towed and one warrant served for the whole Blue Plum weekend.
Also, a special detail by an investigator resulted in three charged with serving alcohol to an under age person.
“We saw probably a decrease as far as arrests made,” Williams said. “It seems like each year it’s getting better and better. We don’t have as many problems dealing with intoxicated people.”
Police officers for the first time utilized bicycles to enforce the law at Blue Plum, a three-day festival that drew an estimated 80,000 people to downtown.
Williams said he saw many benefits of these new bike patrols.
“That was unique to this year and we will probably also use the bike patrol during UMOJA and other large festivals such as Fourth of July,” Williams said. “With the bike patrols they are a lot more mobile, so they are more visible and I think that had somewhat of an impact, too.”
This year’s crime rate reflects upon the bike patrol’s efficiency, Williams said.
“They are seeing all these officers out on their bicycles and there’s just a greater presence and more frequent presence of officers in the area,” Williams said.
Williams said fewer officers were needed this year during the festival. Out of the 19 officers on duty for the festival about 10 were rotated to patrol on bikes and the others were on foot.
“We decreased it this year because of past experiences as the event becomes better behaved,” Williams said. “We cut back probably two or three positions this year. We may even cut back another one or two next year to cut down on overtime, which costs the city.”
The improvement in crime rates for the Blue Plum Festival, Williams said, is not only attributed to bike patrols, but the actions made by all involved.
“I think it’s the fact that more and more families are attending and because of alcohol enforcement details that police and other agencies have been conducting,” Williams said.
“I think the merchants downtown have been very vigilant in checking IDs and not over serving someone. I think it’s also the general education of the public and merchants and we do have a heavy police presence down there.”
William’s said it’s the JCPD’s mission to ensure the safety for all involved in the festival.
“It is a family-oriented event and we want to do everything we can to keep problems down,” Williams said. “The presence in and of itself is a lot of times a deterrent to criminal activity. The more police officers you see out the less problems you’re going to have.”
Overall, the 2013 Blue Plum Festival was as great of an experience for those leisurely attending as it was for officers, Williams said.
“It was just a well behaved group of people,” he said. “We are glad to see that things are improving each year.”