City beefs up se­cu­rity for big week­end crowds

Busy hol­i­day for po­lice as fes­ti­vals, sports draw thou­sands down­town.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - By Alexis Stevens astevens@ajc.com

There will be col­lege football fans, sci-fi fa­nat­ics, black pride rev­el­ers and avid read­ers — thou­sands of them. And they’ll all be in and around At­lanta this week­end for events as di­verse as the city it­self.

“It’s al­ways fun to watch the football teams’ fans come into their ho­tels not know­ing what’s go­ing on,” At­lanta po­lice Deputy Chief Scott Kre­her said of the La­bor Day week­end con­ver­gence. “And they run into DragonCon and the pa­rade and the cos­tumes.”

As many as 300,000 are ex­pected to hit At­lanta streets both Satur­day and Sun­day as part of a va­ri­ety of cel­e­bra­tions, gath­er­ings and games. By Mon­day, as many as 700,000 will have vis­ited, mak­ing it the busiest hol­i­day week­end of the year for the At­lanta Po­lice Depart­ment.

It’s not a week­end off for any of the city’s of­fi­cers, Kre­her said Thurs­day. Both uni­formed and un­der­cover of­fi­cers will be out, along with some 10,000 cam­eras keep­ing a watch over down­town as part of a video net­work that has been in place sev­eral years.

“We’ll have all hands on deck both week­end days,” Kre­her said.

So what is go­ing on? DragonCon, At­lanta Black Pride, The Chick-fil-A Kick­off Game be­tween Auburn and Washington, and Lu­daDay Week­end — cre­ated by rap­per-turned-hu­man­i­tar­ian Lu­dacris — are among the events sched­uled for La­bor Day week- end, plus a host of oth­ers just out­side of down­town.

Satur­day on the Ge­or­gia Tech cam­pus, the Yel­low Jack­ets will kick off their football sea­son vs. Al­corn State in front of an ex­pected crowd of 30,000. More than 600 au­thors are ex­pected to speak and sign their work at the an­nual AJC De­catur Book Fes­ti­val, which runs to­day through Sun­day. In Cobb County, the At­lanta Braves will host Pitts­burgh for a week­end series. And, Satur­day night, ’70s South­ern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd will per­form at Cel­lairis Amp­ithe­atre at Lake­wood.

“The di­ver­sity of our events is an im­por­tant part of what makes the City of At­lanta a unique, mul­ti­fac­eted des­ti­na­tion,” APD Chief Erika Shields said in an emailed state­ment. “We hope every­one has a great time and en­joys the best At­lanta has to of­fer. Our of­fi­cers will be out among the crowds and stand ready to serve.”

But with the re­cent Jack­sonville mass shoot­ing at an “es­ports” gam­ing con­ven­tion that left two dead and 11 in­jured, DragonCon will have ad­di­tional se­cu­rity in place. DragonCon, which draws tens of thou­sands in some­times elab­o­rate cos­tumes from their fa­vorite sci-fi movies and comics, also hosts a gam­ing area in Amer­i­c­as­Mart build­ing 1. Kre­her said se­cu­rity will be in place to make sure any weapons are part of the the­atrics rather than the real thing.

Plan­ning for this year’s La­bor Day events be­gan as soon as they ended last year. Plans for keep­ing the pub­lic safe also be­gan months ago, Kre­her said. APD con­sid­ers the week­end a warm-up to even big­ger events, such as the Su­per Bowl on Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium. And with state and fed­eral law en­force­ment also pre­pared to help lo­cal of­fi­cers, it should be an­other busy, fun week­end in the city, Kre­her said.

“This is not unique,” he said. “We have this ev­ery La­bor Day. All of these events were here last year. We’re look­ing for­ward to an­other ex­cit­ing week­end.”

Those plan­ning to at­tend the var­i­ous events should also do their part to stay safe, ac­cord­ing to po­lice. Park­ing will fill quickly, so plan to use a ride-share ser­vice or MARTA, which plans to run ad­di­tional train ser­vice. If you must drive, don’t leave any valu­ables in your car. If you own a gun, leave it at home, Kre­her said.

Lastly, event-go­ers are re­minded to re­port any­thing sus­pi­cious to an of­fi­cer in the area or by call­ing 911.

“We want the pub­lic to know we want to hear from them,” Kre­her said.

ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

An At­lanta po­lice of­fi­cer and a Ge­or­gia state trooper work to­gether Thurs­day to direct traf­fic in the park­ing area of the At­lanta Hy­att Ho­tel as peo­ple de­scend upon the city for a La­bor Day week­end jam­packed with events in down­town At­lanta.

ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

At­lanta po­lice of­fi­cer Joshua Shields (left) sur­veys the out­side of the At­lanta Hil­ton Ho­tel in down­town At­lanta on Thurs­day. This is Shields’ third year over­see­ing the Hil­ton Ho­tel dur­ing DragonCon.

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