Mansfield selectmen are again beginning the task of reviewing the security needs of the Comcast Center for the coming concert season.
That involves a look back at this summer’s performances and the problems in Mansfield and Norton.
It is not a pretty picture, according to selectmen.
“There has been a progression of nastiness every year,” said board member Doug Annino Wednesday. “I’m amazed at the that shenanigans that go on.”
The 2012 season had two deaths occurring after the Identity Tour festival in July.
Selectman George Dentino told the board and the chiefs of the fire and police department the tragedies may be emblematic of the danger to the public from the increasing drug and alcohol use within the confines of the Comcast concert area and particularly its parking lot.
But Police Chief Arthur O’Neill pointed out the two men who died made conscious decisions to take the drugs that caused their deaths. It would have been next to impossible for anyone trying to police the thousands patrons present for that hours-long event to prevent what happened, he said.
“We are all students here,” he said. “As far as the deaths are concerned, there are active investigations on both. If you take drugs that were made in a bathroom sink, what do you expect? It is hard to interdict short of strip-searching everyone who comes in.
“You should take those deaths off the boards,” he added. “The things that killed those young men, they took a small noxious substance and killed themselves.”
He later said there has been “a death of personal responsibility.”
Dentino has suggested a number of revisions to the license he claims would help stem the ever increasing tide of underage drinking and drug use at some of the 30-something concerts a season.
His suggestions include checking tickets at multiple stations at the entrance of the parking lot, dramatically increasing the number of officers and fire personnel patrolling the lots, pat-down checkpoints for male and female customers, drug sniffing dogs, and an observation platform with cameras.
Wednesday, he included the possibility of an over-21 parking lot, and said one of the greatest problems comes from the presence of people who walk into the lot from the street and have no tickets, particularly young individuals who only come to the events to party in the parking lot.
Although signs are posted warning no drinking in the lots, Dentino said anyone walking through can see numerous people visibly drinking.
O’Neill said the absolute minimum number of officers on any given event is 14, but added there are always more on hand than the minimum. “Sometimes there are 35 to 40 people there now,” he said.
He also told the board checking identifications of patrons has become progressively harder as technology has made it possible for people to get foreign-made fake I.D.’s on line. He indicated there may be some improvements in staffing and equipment that might serve to improve conditions at Comcast.
“We agree on keeping patrons safe, even from themselves, the employees safe, and our officers safe,” O’Neill said.
A subcommittee, including selectmen Jess Aptowitz and chairman Olivier Kozlowski, will bring back comments from the board and the public to the open subcommittee meetings as they begin the re-licensing process for 2013.