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Preventing Drug Related Organised Crime at Music Festivals

Andy Robertson

There has always been a tentative relationship between music festivals and recreational drug use dating back to the first events in the 1960s. Whilst this is still frowned upon it is accepted as an ongoing reality by organisers and law enforcement. What steps can organisers take to mitigate the risks associated with drug-related organised crime at their events.

Although recreational drug use is unofficially tolerated by many festival organisers it remains largely illegal and can result in arrest and prosecution of individuals. The risk of serious injury and even fatalities is the driving force for prevention where reasonably possible. Wherever narcotics are sold in large volumes organised crime gangs are never far away and can present a new level of risk for the safety and security of everyone on a festival site. Music festival organisers may want to consider some of the following measures to keep undesirable elements away from their events. 

Collaboration with Police. 
Every music festival works closely with local police and law enforcement to ensure that an event takes place in a secure and safe manner. In addition, the police often focus on drug related activities taking place near or on a festival site. Police collaboration may involve the sharing of intelligence related to organised crime that is targeting a music festival allowing additional security and screening measures to be implemented. Individuals associated with crime gangs distributing drugs on site can be targeted by police sweeps during an event to identify and remove potential hiding spots for drugs and weapons. Police may also utilise drug-sniffing dogs and specialised units trained in detecting narcotics to search vehicles, camping areas, and other areas of concern. 

Site Security. 
Most festival organisers implement security screening at all entrances to find hidden narcotics and other banned items but if intelligence suggests that organised crime gangs are intending to bring large qualities onto a site the screening needs to be enhanced. This may involve increasing the number of specialised and experienced security personnel and police sniffer dogs. An increased visible presence of security staff and thorough searching may be enough to deter dealers. If a festival has installed CCTV around the site trained security staff can monitor any suspicious activity and take the necessary action. 

Contractor and Vendor Screening. 
It is not unusual for crime gangs to target contractors and vendors to carry narcotics onto a festival site because they generally have greater access to the site over multiple days. Contractors have been known to hide large quantities of narcotics on a festival site in advance of public opening dates. Individuals with site access prior to an event need to go through the same screening and security checks as festival-goers. 

Customer Engagement. 
Many music festival organisers will state that they have a zero tolerance to the bringing of narcotics onto a site. This can be clearly communicated to festival-goers through social media channels and is often a condition of ticket purchase. The consequences of discovery should be clearly stated which usually means ejection form the festival as well as being detained by the police for later prosecution. Engage with festival-goers to prompt the reporting of any suspicious activity both on site and in the local area. This can be done using phone numbers or other reporting channels and should be on an anonymous basis. 

Organisers should stay informed about the threats and trends on organised crime targeting their event for drug distribution. These organisations are often associated with violence which is a concern for the safety of everyone on a festival site. It is imperative that festival organisers implement measures that disrupt drug distribution networks and deter criminal activity. 

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering. 

Image by Kindel Media via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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