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WE Fest criminal activity declines

The coordinated efforts of local law enforcement, security personnel and volunteers to make WE Fest a safer experience for everyone involved appears to be working.

According to Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon, there has been "seven consecutive years of decline" in the number of arrests and criminal issues investigated at the festival and surrounding areas.

"There's so much cooperation between the sheriff's department, state patrol, private security, WE Fest chaplains, and the horse posse," Gordon said. "It's pretty well coordinated, and we all work well together.

"We try to provide as safe an environment as possible for these people, and it appears to be working."

A total of 37 arrests were made from Tuesday through Sunday, Aug. 2-7 -- "most of them alcohol related," Gordon noted.

Of those arrests, 19 were made on Saturday, which was local law enforcement's busiest day, he added.

"We're investigating a couple of felonies, some domestic assaults that occurred," Gordon continued. "There were some altercations that led to serious injuries, which we're also investigating."

There were also 28 DWIs recorded in the county throughout the weekend, but that was countywide and not specifically WE Fest related, he added.

"All in all, from our perspective, it was a pretty successful event," Gordon said. "You put that many people together, partying for that amount of time and you're going to have issues, but the amount of arrests wasn't overwhelming by any means.

"Last year we were in the 40s (with total arrests), and eight years ago it was 110-112. We've gone as high as 150 in years past."

Gordon feels that part of the reason for the decline in incidents is the degree of cooperation between those involved in trying to prevent problems in the first place.

"A lot of proactive work is accomplished," he said. "When we see issues arise they're dealt with immediately."

Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol agreed with Gordon's overall assessment.

"We went through it without any serious injuries or fatal crashes," he said, adding that the total number of DWI arrests has seen a steady decline.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, for instance, there were "double the number of DWI arrests," Grabow said. "We had about the same amount of traffic stops (there were 572 total stops this weekend), but double the arrests.

"We've definitely made progress," he added. "The message has gotten out. People are taking note, utilizing other options like taxis, limousines and buses, or having a safe and sober ride planned out ahead of time."

Still, there is room for improvement, Grabow noted, as 28 arrests is "still a significant number."

Inside the city of Detroit Lakes, Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten said there were few problems.

"There were no problems at all with alcohol or fights," he told the Detroit Lakes City Council on Tuesday. "People were very respectful. There were a lot of people but few legal issues."

The biggest problem was with late night traffic flow in and out of the WE Fest grounds, as the last music acts of the evening finished their sets.

But both Gordon and Eggebraaten said the traffic flow was fairly smooth. Eggebraaten noted that the "no left turn" signs placed on Washington Avenue and West Lake Drive, similar to those used on the July 4 weekend, helped to make traffic flow better.

Gordon noted most of the congestion on each evening was cleared out within about an hour.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454