About 12,000 people attended this year’s Block Party, according to police estimates, up from roughly 8,000 in 2009. DISD Detective Sgt. Jeremy Liebbe, co-operations commander for the block party, said when he first began working the event eight years ago, attendance was only about 4,000.
While some don’t appreciate the apparent influx of non-LGBT people to the block party, Liebbe said he thinks it’s actually a good thing for the community. However, he added that the increasing crowd size presents some safety issues, and authorities likely will require future block parties on Cedar Springs to be fenced.
“It’s good for the businesses, it’s good for the economy of the community, but that does create some added public safety issues that we have to stay ahead of the game on,” Liebbe said, adding that local authorities can apply lessons they’ve learned from larger events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Greenville Avenue.
Liebbe said all future block parties on Cedar Springs, including arts festivals, likely will require fencing. He said the fencing is inexpensive at only a few hundred dollars, but it will allow authorities to create a handful of checkpoints where people can enter and leave. In addition to controlling crowd size if necessary, they can stop people from bringing in alcohol in glass containers, coolers and backpacks, which is illegal.
“It’s all about what we can do to increase the safety and enjoyment of everyone who’s coming to the events,” Liebbe said, adding that many people purchase alcohol at places like Walgreen’s and Valero, not realizing they’re not supposed to bring it in. “Our biggest concern right now is the glass and the risk of injury.”
Liebbe said the fenced area for Cedar Springs block parties likely will extend from Reagan Street to just west of Woody’s, and possibly beyond ilume for some events. He said there are no plans to charge admission for people to enter the fenced area.
“It’s going to be as invisible as we can make it,” Liebbe said of the fencing. “We’re going to use the natural barriers.”
Liebbe said there are no plans to fence off the area during the Pride parade, although there is some talk of fencing Lee Park during the Pride festival.
Despite the huge crowd at this year’s block party, there were only five arrests, Liebbe said — two for assault, one for theft and two for public intoxication. Liebbe credited strong cooperation from the community combined with good work by officers for the small number of incidents.
“The problems are historically very, very low at that event,” he said.