Eight arrests, as many as 60 people ejected from the fairgrounds and an officer sent to the hospital with a broken leg? Some may say the California State Fair had a troubling start this year.
But historically, more people are arrested in the fair’s final days, according to data obtained by The Sacramento Bee through a Public Records Act request.
Since the fair shifted to a July start in 2010, 25 percent of arrests have occurred on the final Saturday and Sunday.
Last year, 20 of the 69 arrests logged by Cal Expo Police Department officers during the fair’s 17-day run came on the final weekend, with crimes ranging from resisting arrest to battery against a peace officer, State Fair arrest logs show.
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On the final day alone, 13 people were arrested – the highest daily total in five years and well beyond the median number of three arrests per day in 2016.
Sabrina Rodriguez, the State Fair media director, said higher attendance at the end of the fair, as well as on weekends, may contribute to the increase in crime. She could not provide specific attendance numbers for previous years as of Friday afternoon.
“It’s just logical that because we see more people, there are more incidents,” she said. “Sometimes bad elements see that final day of the fair as their last chance to cause trouble.”
Marc Hensley, a former Cal Expo patrol officer and retired Sacramento Police Department detective, said it has been well-known that the last weekend – and particularly the last night – had more offenders.
“Policemen won’t take their families out there at night,” he said. “It’s just how they say, evil comes out when the sun goes down.”
Hensley said most of the arrests at the State Fair when he was an officer came when large groups of people got into an argument or at the end of the night, when officers told fairgoers to leave at closing hour. He worked part-time at the Police Department for 15 years until late November 2015, when Cal Expo officials were made aware of a state government code that mandated police officers retire by 65 years old, and he was let go.
“A lot of people have excuses for why they have to stay and then we have to usher them out,” he said. “And that’s when the conflicts start.”
Hensley said that the opening weekend can also pose challenges. In two of the last 10 years – 2008 and 2014 – more people were arrested on the first weekend than the final two days.
“The first day of the fair is almost as bad as the last day,” he said.
Rodriguez said the fair plans to beef up security for Saturday and Sunday, but declined to say how many officers patrol the fairgrounds at any given time, saying disclosure could compromise the Police Department’s ability to keep crowds safe if perpetrators know how many officers to expect.
Last year, Cal Expo officials said there were typically 70 officers on patrol, aided by security guards, at any given time.
For 2017, Cal Expo so far has only provided arrest data for the first five days of the fair. From July 14-18, officers arrested 13 people. Eight of those arrests came on opening night.
The California State Fair runs through the weekend, with attendees expected to exit the fairgrounds by around 10 p.m. Sunday night, Rodriguez said.