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Crime Stoppers to Review Policy After Bash Turns Into a Brawl

Crime Stoppers, a local law-and-order booster group, is re-evaluating its policy on fund-raising concerts after the crowd Saturday night caused $30,000 worth of damage to a limousine and assaulted its driver at the Broadway Pier.

Robert Ito, organizer of the second annual Crime Stoppers benefit, said there is a “very good chance” that next year’s 10K run/walk won’t be capped with a concert, at least not a concert likely to attract hordes of teen-agers, as last Saturday’s did.

Witnesses blamed the melee on inadequate security--four reserve police officers and nine security guards for a crowd of more than 20,000--and minors drinking alcohol. There were no arrests.

The five reggae acts that performed, including the Taxi Gang and Sly & Robbie, get regular air play on progressive rock radio stations such as San Diego’s XTRA-FM (91X), which sponsored the show.

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Officer Linda Zweig, the San Diego Police Department’s liaison with Crime Stoppers, faulted 91X’s handling of the concert.

“The run itself was extremely well-organized, but the bash at the end is another story,” Zweig said. “The bands attracted a large, unruly crowd, 99% of whom had not participated in the run.

“From what we could gather, the station just arbitrarily invited listeners to that thing, which resulted in an extremely large number of people. And I don’t even know what they had for security.

“We’re extremely lucky that nothing else happened, that nobody fell into the water, that nobody got hurt,” Zweig said.

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Tom Jiminez, general manager of 91X, refuses to plead guilty.

“I’ve gotten letters and telegrams from some of our key clients, saying it was a very successful event,” Jiminez said. “I think people are just overreacting.”

Doug Desjardins--a reporter for the Coronado Journal who witnessed the attack on the limousine and its driver--doesn’t agree.

Toward the end of the concert, a white 1986 Lincoln custom stretch--owned by California’s Finest Limousines and hired by 91X to transport the performers from the stage back to their hotel--began inching its way down the pier.

“Maybe 100 feet from the stage, it was stopped by a human chain,” Desjardins recalled. ‘People started to climb on top of the car, and finally the limo driver got out and started shoving them off.

“But as fast as he pushed them off, they climbed back on and began dancing on the hood, on the roof, on the trunk.

“Then the driver himself got tossed off, and that was the last I saw of him. Five minutes later, one fat security guard came running up, but by then, the situation was out of control,” Desjardins said.

The security guard was overwhelmed, Desjardins said, “and then people just started pounding on the car.” Two windows were broken, the hood and trunk were smashed, all four tires were flattened, and the sunroof was kicked in. The interior upholstery was ripped apart, the stereo and television were stolen, and more than 100 empty beer bottles were thrown inside.

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“I was really shocked,” Desjardins said. “One security guard for all those people--it was as if they had no security at all. And I didn’t see a cop the entire time I was there, which was at least 20 minutes.”

Mike Vitali, owner of California’s Finest Limousines, estimates total damage to the limo at more than $30,000. And though “the radio station told me they would be taking care of it,” he said, he’s still angry--not so much with 91X as with the Police Department.

“Our limos go down to the stadium every week, where there are also in excess of 20,000 people and where my drivers also have to inch their way through the crowd,” Vitali said. “Yet I’ve never even had a scratch on any of my cars before this.

“There was definitely a lack of security, and a lack of concern, on the part of city cops. People ran from the scene and even ran right past the cops with parts of the car around their necks--mirrors, antennas, grilles--and the cops didn’t do a single thing about it.”

Ito, the event organizer, said: “I think the issue here is public safety. The bands that played that evening attracted a large number of young people, and that created a crowd-control problem.

“Crime Stoppers really has to consider whether we want to have live entertainment again,” he said. “And, if so, we need to make sure the bands we get won’t attract the type of people who caused some of the problems we had this year.

“Part of our mission is to raise money to pay anonymous tipsters who turn in crooks, so obviously we don’t want to be associated with any event that results in damage to anyone’s personal property, let alone drinking by people who are under 21.”

Deputy Police Chief Mike Rice, who also sits on the board of directors of Crime Stoppers, called it “unfortunate the limo got smashed,” but said the police can’t be everywhere.

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“We don’t have police at every event there is. Last Saturday, we had four reserve officers assigned to that area, and the reality is they spent most of their time in front, directing traffic.

“There was no reason to believe we were going to have a problem. Last year we had bands that played oldies music and attracted an older crowd. But this year the crowd was a lot younger, and we ended up with a heck of a lot of people in a relatively small area.

“As it stands, we’re fortunate that nothing really major occurred.”

Like Ito, Rice said future Crime Stoppers benefits may be held without post-run concerts.

“At our next board meeting, we plan on critiquing the event and making a decision as to whether we’re going to have this same type of after-party next year,” Rice said.

Even if Crime Stoppers board members decide to continue capping their annual 10K run/walk benefits with concerts on the Broadway Pier, they may encounter some difficulties in obtaining the necessary permits from the city of San Diego and the San Diego Unified Port District.

“We hadn’t noticed problems like this in the past, and before we grant a permit next year, we need to look back and do a post-event evaluation,” said Peg Nugent, special events coordinator for San Diego.

Port District spokesman Dan Wilkins said, “We take these permit applications on a case-by-case basis, and the experience of one is obviously a factor in future discussions on these things.

“But, at the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to say that just because we had one incident, we’re going to ban all these events. We just don’t know yet.”


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