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Festival draws to a close mostly mayhem-free

Police presence at Headwaters likely helped keep things calm

There’s still one night to go, but if it is anything like the rest of the nights of this year’s Three Rivers Festival, it should be a quiet one from a law enforcement perspective.

“There hasn’t been much of anything at all from Saturday on … it’s actually been very quiet,” said Marty Bender, deputy chief of special operations for Fort Wayne police and coordinator for the city police presence at the festival.

As of Friday afternoon, police had recorded only two arrests within the festival perimeter – one for marijuana or spice possession and the other for someone who refused to leave the park with their pet.

There has been some activity at late-night events not associated with the festival, including a report of shots fired about 1:30 a.m. Thursday near a beer tent at Harrison and Columbia streets.

Police quickly found the suspect, and after a brief standoff, he dropped his gun and was arrested on charges of carrying a handgun without a license and public intoxication, according to a report of the incident.

When it comes to activity at the festival, Bender said there haven’t been nearly as many problems as in the past.

“I can tell you that 40 years ago, we used to make 60 or 70 arrests every night,” he said, adding that moving the festival to Headwaters Park and making the area more manageable have helped.

For festival executive director Jack Hammer, even something as simple as parking police cars along Clinton Street is a good way of deterring people who might cause a ruckus from entering the festival.

“It’s a nice way to let (the public) know we are policing properly,” he said.

How many police were at the park on any give day was determined by that day’s or night’s schedule.

Nights with bigger music performances were likely to be staffed with more police in the area.

Aside from the police who were visible every day at the festival, plenty more, even gang units, were there unknown to the public.

Before the parade,bomb technicians walked along the parade route, looking for suspicious items or activity.

“They weren’t seen, but they were there,” Bender said.

The festival hires some police officers as private security, and others are assigned to the area as part of their daily patrols.

Hammer said the partnership with city and county police allows him to rest a little more easily when it comes to the safety of attendees.

“I’m the kind of guy that matters to,” he said.