It was, as we mentioned on this page yesterday, a full weekend for festivals.
With both the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival and the Dakota Nation Winterfest in town at the same time, the city was kept hopping.
So, apparently, were city police, who made 38 arrests from Friday through Sunday. About two-thirds of those were for the type of drunken rowdiness that you might expect during a pair of festivals.
Of course, the entire Winterfest is alcohol-free, as are several of the Winter Festival pavilions, but it is no secret that drinking and partying are major attractions for a large number of festival-goers at each event.
Before the weekend even started, the Brandon Police Service said they were confident they wouldn’t face any extra workload from the pair of festivals at the same time.
“Based on the past, these events on their own haven’t posed an exorbitant problem for us,” Sgt. Mike Pelechaty told the Sun last week. “Our plans are in place based on the fact that neither of them in the past few years has presented a public safety problem.”
Yesterday, after the festivals were over, the police Twitter account, @BrandonPolice, tweeted that “There were no incidents reported to BPS in relation to either Winter Festival that took place in Brandon over the weekend.”
Except 38 arrests over the weekend is quite a bit higher than normal. That includes 13 arrests Friday night for various offences, such as underage drinking and breach of the peace. And then another 13 arrests on Saturday. That, on top of the regular police duties, such as responding to a stabbing, executing drug search warrants and rousing a man who apparently slept through his appointment to show up at jail.
Perhaps none of the arrests actually happened at either festival location. But it does nobody any good to pretend that there wasn’t an elevated level of police activity over the weekend. Or that it has nothing to do with the thousands of well-lubricated people milling about.
In searching through previous police press releases, we had to go back before Christmas to find anything near the same number of arrests (there were 15 on the night of the winter solstice). But even that was just a single night in December, not this weekend’s two in a row. A normal weekend night might see maybe half a dozen people in the drunk tank.
It does seem like the police were able to handle the increased workload, and we commend them for doing so without unnecessarily beefing up patrols. From all accounts, organizers at each event also did an excellent job making sure everyone enjoyed themselves in as safe a manner as possible.
But large numbers of people combined with large amounts of alcohol is a well-known risk factor for safety challenges. It’s not prudent to pretend that those challenges don’t exist.