Updated with LAPD Deputy Chief Patrick Gannon's thoughts on rave deployment, at the bottom.
As Electric Daisy Carnival hits Sin City for what promoters are anticipating will be their biggest rave yet, the big question is, is Las Vegas really prepared for this?
In recent days Vegas officials have come off sounding pretty smug in saying, for example, that Sin City is a party town used to good-time seekers, or that traffic won't be a problem at the venue, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, because NASCAR events there draw 100,000 people plus.
Uh. News flash: 100,000 ravers (many of whom will be on ecstasy) aren't NASCAR fans, people. And this ain't New Year's Eve on the strip. The city's police deployment numbers for the party, if true, are almost laughable compared to the LAPD's own preparations for such events here:
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal about 160 officers will be assigned to the three-day event on each night.
Following controversy at the two-day Electric Daisy Carnival at the publicly run L.A. Coliseum last year, which included some chaotic moments of in-the-park gatecrashing, more than 200 medical emergencies, and the subsequent overdose death of a 15-year-old who had taken ecstasy, police pumped up their numbers at much smaller raves from 250 to a whopping 450.
(And note here that EDC in Dallas has possibly been linked to three deaths in the last year).
Regarding the LAPD's increased rave deployment, Deputy Chief Patrick Gannon told us last fall, “We're hoping if we showed a much larger presence with uniformed and non-uniformed officers, that we would discourage some of the blatant drug use.”
After former LAPD Chief and current L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks questioned the necessity of that many cops, Gannon said:
I respect Bernard Parks a lot because he was our chief and few know the LAPD inside and out like him. But I have a good handle on policing events in and around the Coliseum.
Officials in Vegas keep referring to the city's ability to deal with large crowds at NASCAR and New Year's Eve events without realizing that a rave is a wholly different animal.
Dr. Dale Carrison, the EDC's on-site medical director, told 8 News Now in Las Vegas this:
This is what we do in Las Vegas. This is what the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department does with NASCAR and New Year's Eve and with all of the different events we have downtown and on the Strip. This is what we as a city do and we do it well and I think we are going to do this well.
The LAPD long ago acknowledged that ravers are way different than, say, sports fans: Staffing levels are worlds away from USC football games at the coliseum, which can attract nearly 100,000 people but only see about 125 badges. Raves would get 250.
And even with the post-EDC staffing of 450 cops at the last two raves at the Coliseum/Sports Arena property, arrests and hospitalizations were consistent with 2010's numbers. The increase in officers barely made a dent.
Pasquale Rotella, CEO of EDC promotion company Insomniac Events, has said he hopes to see 100,000 people a day in Vegas, which would beat last year's 160,000, two-day crowd numbers for EDC L.A., widely believed to be the largest rave yet in the United States.
So, doing the math, the LAPD would put at least 450 cops on EDC if it was here again. Las Vegas Metro Police's deployment would be nearly one third of the officers the L.A. department felt was necessary to patrol a much smaller event.
For his part, Rotella says his people are ready, that there will be 1,000 security guards, and that staff will employ a hard, “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to drug use.
Las Vegas Metro Police spokesman Bill Cassell wouldn't confirm or deny the 160 deployment number, saying, “We never release how many officers we are using to staff an event.”
He assured the Weekly there would be plenty of officers at the party, including horseback, canine and undercover units.
“Have a great time,” he said. “Just wonder if that scruffy guy standing next to you is an officer.”
Update: LAPD Deputy Chief Patrick Gannon was reluctant to criticize or evaluate Vegas Metro's deployment plans because he's not familiar with them (and, as we said above, they're not divulging them).
But he did share some thoughts with the Weekly this afternoon:
While he thought 160 would be a low number for an event of this nature, Gannon said that 1,000 security guards is “a lot.”
“There's no way we could have done it (EDC) with a 160 people but … 1000 security guards is a lot,” he said.
He emphasized that policing raves is much different than sporting events or other mass gatherings.
“Each event is different,” Gannon said. “Each event has its own culture.”
“We have 90,000 people at football games at the coliseum on a regular basis,” he says. “It's a very easy crowd to provide security for.”
“I don't have an ecstasy problem at USC football games, but I have a huge ecstasy problem at a raves.”
“You can't just look at it as another 100,000 person event. It's definitely different, as Dallas found out last week.”
First posted at 1:45 p.m. on June 23.