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Bethlehem police chief: Public disorder at Musikfest must be addressed

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 07 2014 09:00:03 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 08 2014 03:07:53 PM CDT

Police chief calls for Musikfest security

BETHLEHEM. Pa. -

Bethlehem's police chief is calling for a security review after a series of shooting incidents just off the Musikfest grounds. 

In particular, Chief Mark DiLuzio wants to focus on teens and young adults causing fights after the massive festival closes each night.

"We can no longer lay dormant on this issue," the chief said in an internal memo to council members.  "We need to address the issue of Main Street during Musikfest and the continuous public disorder problems that occur every year."

Since Musikfest opened last Friday, two shootings have occurred near the festival grounds after it closed.  In a third incident an opening night, shots were fired but no one was hit. 

Police believe one of the shootings did not involve festival attendees, according to Bethlehem City Council member Bryan Callahan.

"They're totally isolated incidences," said Callahan.  "[The suspect] wasn't even at the festival.  He had a disagreement at a bar."

Still, Callahan and other council members are concerned.  So are some festival goers.

"I feel it's a little bit scary," said Musikfest attendee Kate Vargas.

"It is scary, but where are you going to go that you're not going to find it?", added Vargas' friend, Tianna Ashbaugh.

In his memo, DiLuzio laid much of the blame on underage patrons.

"Many of these teenagers come here to hang out and do nothing else," he wrote.  "This is a recurring issue every year at Musikfest.  Arrest statistics prove this."

Callahan agreed.

"Most of the drunken incidences are kids that are under 21 years of age, who somehow -- whether they drink off-site and came here inebriated, or whether they came here with something like in a Gatorade bottle or a lemonade or an iced tea bottle," he said.

Teens at Musikfest said underage drinking is common, and booze is easy to score.

"You go up the street up there and everyone's drunk all the time," said Kat McEwen, 16.  "A lot of places don't care, especially during Musikfest.  Like, you can walk into a store and buy it and leave and no one will ask."

McEwen added that plenty of over-21 patrons will purchase alcohol for younger festivalgoers.

In his memo, the chief called for a review of underage drinking with Musikfest organizers, merchants, and the public, after Musikfest wraps up.

"I don't really know if there's much they can do, aside from checking your backpack, but that's kind of out of their control," said Vargas.  "It's such a big facility."

Attendee Ron Walbert added:  "I think the people who sell beer here do what they can.  As far as people bringing it from off-site, that's going to happen."