Mansfield selectmen had a heated discussion Wednesday night on security measures and medical issues at the Comcast Center in the wake of , an attempted and .
Tonight's concert will feature heavy metal band, System of a Down.
Selectmen talked with many law enforcement officials to try to find an effective way to help curtail drug use and underage alcohol consumption and overuse.
“A lot has been said recently about the issues from the concerts we’ve had,” Mansfield fire chief Neal Boldrighini said. “We’re not here to point fingers. The behavior that has prompted all this media attention is an epidemic that is seen at all venues.”
Both the fire and police chiefs agreed that the problem lies in the crowds that are attracted to certain musical acts. The Identity Tour saw a host of illegal drugs, such as LSD, Ecstasy, PCP and others.
Boldrighini said that knowing what bands and acts are coming, and the crowds they attract, helps the EMS and police to prepare and properly staff the event.
He said, though, they can be prepared for happenings at the Comcast Center, there is added strain on EMS personnel and equipment.
“The evolution of these crowds has called for a higher level of EMS,” he said. “It is essential that recent changes including staffing models continue to evolve.”
Police chief Arthur O’Neill agreed.
“The last eight or nine years has seen a change in the crowds,” he said. “It’s an alcohol soaked society… We’ve always have and continue to adapt to the changing dynamics of the situation and we always will.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of binge drinking in the country in 2010, beaten only by Wisconsin and North Dakota at 19.7 percent of the population. The Century Council said that in 2009, 33 percent of polled youths aged 12-20 had consumed alcohol within a month of the survey and 22.7 percent had been binge drinking during that time.
O’Neill went on to say that this increase in alcohol usage by underage parties may be increased by the fact that there are now internet Web sites based in China are selling near-perfect fake driver’s licenses to anyone willing to pay $200 online.
Mansfield selectmen considered several options to help deter heavy drug use at the venue. Drug detecting dogs, searches and police training for the private security were all discussed.
O’Neill said that, while drug dogs are useful, he said, they do have their limitations. He said that drug dogs can only work for about 25 minutes and then need to rest. Putting drug dogs at the gates of the Comcast Center would require dozens of dogs (and handlers).
Mansfield town counsel Paul DeRensis said that police searching persons and vehicles outside or inside the venue would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment(right against search and seizure).
Police training Comcast security staff would also cause liability concerns, DeRensis said.
“They’re also two entirely different disciplines,” O’Neill said.
One idea that selectman George Dentino said that he believes the biggest problem lies in controlling underage and overconsumption of alcohol in the parking lots. He said that there should be a small part or section of the lot that would allow tailgating and alcohol with proper identification checks.
Dentino said this would allow adults to partake in alcohol before a show and minimize the area to search for underage parties binge drinking before a show.
“It would be nice to try,” O’Neill said. “Foxborough tried to have a nondrinking parking lot… Logistically it would be a tough thing to pull off.”
The one problem is that such a plan would have to be renegotiated at the entertainment license hearing for next year’s season.
The Comcast Center currently uses paper tickets that can be duplicated via a printer and can, at the moment can only be scanned once (and would be impossible to distinguish without scanning) police would be hard-pressed to make sure that everyone in the lot had a ticket.
Foxborough police chief Edward O'Leary said that Gillette Stadium has now moved to using cardboard tickets to help prevent this. He said the problem with this is that checking everyone takes too much time, and the process has to be sped up.
“It’s a challenging process and it’s not foolproof,” he said.
Dentino added that more police presence could also alleviate the process.