Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre is safe, but whether it’s family-friendly or not really depends on the day — or act, according to Denver police.
Dozens of musicians and entertainers perform annually at the outdoor theater, drawing tens of thousands of people to the venue about 12 miles southeast of downtown Denver. And sometimes those people bring drugs or get into fights or break into cars or do any number of illegal activities that lead to an arrest or citation.
More than 535 citations have been issued within the boundaries of Red Rocks Park from 2014 through June 2017, law enforcement data show. We take a look at those crime numbers, including what types of acts are linked with the most citations, in our Chart of the Week.
During the last three and a half years, law enforcement officers most often wrote tickets for illegally trespassing at Red Rocks. About 18 percent of tickets — 97 citations — issued at the park from 2014 through June of this year were trespassing-related, data from Denver Department of Safety and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office show.
The number of people caught in off-limits areas of the park, in cars and on other property where they weren’t supposed to be was about on par with how many people were caught stealing. About 17.7 percent — 95 citations — of overall crime in the park was related to stealing services, stealing items from cars or just stealing cars themselves from Red Rocks, according to the data.
“Our main concern is when people go up there, that it is a safe environment just like the Pepsi Center and Coors Field,” said Patrick Phelan, commander of the Special Operations Division at the Denver Police Department.
Denver police officers and park rangers patrol Red Rocks Park with help from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Red Rocks is unique because it’s a park owned by the city and county of Denver but surrounded by Jefferson County. During shows, Denver police deal with misdemeanors and enforce city ordinances. They partner with Jefferson County’s Sheriff’s Office to handle felonies and help patrol the park when concerts and events aren’t taking place.
Certain concerts and events get special treatment in the form of increased law enforcement presence, Phelan said.
“I won’t give you specifics, but we have several officers at every concert,” Phelan said. “Based on historical data that I have from previous shows, if there’s been a certain band or entertainer that we’ve had different issues with, then historically we’ll look at that and say, ‘We need to staff a little bit higher on that.'”
Electronic dance music, aka EDM, concerts tend to get a little more law enforcement presence, he said. “For that crowd, it’s a younger crowd. They tend to probably drink a little bit more. Maybe there’s a little more drug use as far as marijuana or something like that,” Phelan said. “So we have a presence up there.”
Although open alcohol is technically prohibited at the park, according to the city’s website, officers do allow those 21 and older to drink while tailgating. Only five alcohol-related citations were issued at the park since 2014, according to data from law enforcement. That’s compared to 87 drug-related citations, the third highest category of crime after trespassing and theft.
It turns out, the most citations were issued during days with dance bands or artists, according to a Denverite analysis. For the analysis, Denverite asked Denver Arts & Venues for a list of all the entertainment acts from 2014 through June 2017. We then assigned each of those acts a genre based on how they were labeled in iTunes. This is a consistent, albeit not perfect, system where Ed Sheeran is a “singer/songwriter,” Paul Simon performs “pop” and Tom Petty and Ryan Adams both fall under “rock.”
Denver Arts & Venues is seeing stiff competition among bands and performers that want to play at Red Rocks even with the cost for some shows hitting the $100,000 to $120,000 price tag when you add up all the costs and fees, said Tad Bowman, venue director for Red Rocks and the Denver Coliseum.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is hosting a growing number of entertainment events in addition to fitness-related programs and other offerings. Altogether the park brought in more than 1 million concert and event goers last year, Bowman said.
Bands are flocking to the park, Bowman said, because of its unparalleled beauty and due to the fact that in recent years touring and live shows are a more important revenue generator than record sales.
While Arts & Venues staff manages who plays at the amphitheatre, and tends to give priority to those who have played the venue before, the organization is avoiding getting into the business of deciding what type or genre of act can rent the theatre.
In 1971, after tear gas was used to deal with unruly crowds at a Jethro Tull concert, the city banned rock shows at Red Rocks. The ban was in place until Barry Fey, who died in 2013, successfully sued the city in 1975 and forced Denver officials out of the genre-picking business.
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