After months of deliberation, criticism and debate, the officials who run the Coliseum and Sports Arena allowed controversial raves at the venues to go forward, but with strict new guidelines: That each person entering is at least 18, and that each one goes through a scan-based ID check to make sure.
At the first rave to happen under the new rules, approved in November and reaffirmed in December, the system broke down. People got through at New Year's Eve's "Together As One" party at the Sports Arena without having their identifies verified for age, Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Patrick Gannon told the Weekly.
However (and this is a BIG however) ...
Gannon says only people who appeared to be way older 18 were allowed to bypass the ID scanners.
Additionally, he revised the previous number of arrests from 25 to 33, including 12 felony arrests. Almost all if not all were drug-related, he said.
This all happened Friday night/Saturday morning as larger-than-expected crowds showed up -- 45,600 in the LAPD's official estimate -- overwhelming workers at the gate and creating backups.
Additionally, he said, some of the ID scanners broke down, contributing to the problem. Gannon gave us these details after the Weekly, having received a report of some IDs not being checked at the event, asked him if the observation was true.
Gannon says he believes that long lines and huge backups have been major factors in gatecrashing at past events. So older-looking folks were let in quickly to relieve the stress. But, he emphasized, no one entered without being searched or having their bags searched.
"Some people who were obviously not underage, we allowed them to skip the license readers," he said.
If this is how it went, it doesn't bode well for ensuring that IDs are checked at future events. After all, TAO, with 45,600 people, is a fraction of the size of June's Electric Daisy Carnival, which police said drew 160,000 people over two days in June.
When the Coliseum Commission, the public body that runs the Coliseum and Sports Arena, allowed raves to continue on at the venues in November as part of a controversial, low-profile vote that took many observers by surprise, it adopted not-yet-final recommendations of a rave task force that included a strict, ID-scan policy, a hard-and-fast 18-and-older rule, more security, and more medical personnel.
That last caveat was meant to reduce the number of overdoses. But the event saw 17 hospitalizations and 62 medical emergencies. Last year's TAO saw 18 hospitalizations, mostly for ecstasy overdoses.
That number "is still remarkably high and I think we still have to do a lot more work on ensuring that if they continue to do these types of events that we do more on the prevent this," Gannon said.
At a similarly sized Halloween rave at the Sports Arena in October 40 arrests were reported along with 16 hospitalizations.
Despite efforts to "reduce harm" caused by ecstasy overdoses at the events, the numbers seem consistent.
The Deputy Chief said the event included "amnesty boxes" where ravers could dump drugs on the way into the event. But he said he didn't know how many drugs were deposited: The promoters were in charge of hiring an independent organization to set up the amnesty boxes, and police kept their distance because they would be obligated to arrest anyone who had narcotics.
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He said there was no gatecrashing that he knew of, and only a few minor "scuffles."
Gannon emphasized that he believes things have improved compared to earlier events, particularly the much larger Electric Daisy Carnival in June that saw more than 200 medical emergencies, 60 arrests and the death of one attendee, a 15-year-old who had taken ecstasy.
Her demise led to serious questions about the wisdom of holding raves at the public venues.
"All of the changes" ordered by the Commission, he said, "have been positive."