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Police to step up Speed Street security

- sharrison@charlotteobserver.com
Monday, May. 21, 2012
Speed Street closings

The city announced that these streets would be closed Wednesday to Sunday.
• Tryon Street between Stonewall and Trade streets.
• Third and Fourth Streets between College and Church streets.
• Levine Avenue of the Arts between Church and Tryon streets.
• Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Church and Caldwell streets (access will be maintained to Wells Fargo and AT&T buildings).
• Brevard Street between Third and Stonewall streets (access maintained to NASCAR Hall of Fame parking garage).
• College Street between Stonewall Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Additional changes

The intersection of College Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will be closed from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Reopening for weekday morning rush: 6 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.: Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Third Street and Fourth Street between College and Church streets.

This year’s Speed Street, which begins Thursday, will likely have a larger police presence than a year ago, when several fights and an early morning shooting followed the uptown event.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police will also have more leeway to stop participants in an effort to prevent violence.

The race-themed uptown street festival – featuring food, entertainment and product giveaways – is expected to attract more than 400,000 people in advance of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Food Lion is the title sponsor of the festival.

The city of Charlotte has deemed Speed Street an “extraordinary event” – a declaration by City Manager Curt Walton that gives police more power and prohibits some items.

For instance, backpacks, satchels and coolers are prohibited if they are being used to carry a weapon or with the intent to carry a weapon.

In addition, the city is urging residents to be more vigilant in reporting potential threats to public safety, as part of a security campaign unveiled Monday.

Called “If you See Something, Say Something,” the initiative asks residents to call 911 when they spot suspicious activity or items left in public places, particularly during events like Speed Street or the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

“Report suspicious activity to the proper authorities,” said Mayor Anthony Foxx at the news conference with local and federal officials. “We need everyone keeping their eyes out for activities that seem out of the ordinary. You could make a difference in saving lives.”

The “See Something, Say Something” program has been operating in other communities around the country since 2010.

It is credited with thwarting criminal activity in Texas and Washington state, including one involving an improvised explosive device, said Betsy Markey with the Department of Homeland Security.

Major sports leagues have also adopted the program, including NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Motor Speedway, which will host the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend.

The Charlotte Area Transit System has also had a variation of the awareness program for years, said CATS officials.

Several officials noted that the new campaign is not intended to target people of a specific race or national origin.

“It’s about what you see people doing, not about what they look like. Are they doing something suspicious? Are they carrying something suspicious?” Deputy Chief Vicki Foster of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department said.

CMPD has said in the past that the extraordinary event designation gives police greater ability to “interact” with people.

The City Council passed the extraordinary event ordinance in preparation for the DNC, but it has already been used twice, for annual shareholder meetings at Duke Energy and Bank of America.

The Fourth of July celebration uptown will also be deemed an extraordinary event.

CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano declined to be specific about how many officers would be deployed for this week.

“We will have appropriate staffing at Speed Street to ensure a safe, successful event,” Tufano said in an email.

There were protests at both shareholder meetings, but Tufano said CMPD had “no significant incidents…since the ordinance was approved.”

The extraordinary-event rules will be in effect from the intersection of Seventh and North Tryon streets to the intersection of South Tryon and Stonewall streets; from Stonewall to South Davidson Street; from South Davidson to Seventh Street and then from Seventh back to North Tryon Street.

The rules will be in effect from 6 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Sunday.

Last year’s shooting occurred after Speed Street had ended, around 1 a.m. Police said the shooting and violence were gang-related. CMPD had roughly 70 arrests over the course of the event.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

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