Utahns going to the Utah State Fair shouldn't worry about another gang-related shooting like the one last year, Salt Lake police and fair officials say.
"We are not expecting any problems, but we didn't anticipate any problems last year. I have worked at the fair for 12 to 15 years, and this was the first shooting incident that we've had," said Salt Lake police detective Frank Werner."The incident could have occurred across the fence in the 7-Eleven parking lot and would not have received the (news media) attention it received."
Werner, Sgt. Brent Braegger of the Salt Lake Area Gang Project and fair officials say people shouldn't base their plans for attending this year's fair on last year's incident.
A year ago, Gilbert Arredondo, 20, was shot in the back after he and a girlfriend stepped off a ride in the midway.
Metro gang officers arrested two 16-year-old boys in connection with the shooting.
Fair Director Jackie Nokes says police and fair security officials quickly handled the incident.
But, she says, the continuing news media coverage of the event hurt fair attendance and caused a drop in revenue. Inclement weather was also a factor in the lower attendance.
Nokes and state officials say fair security measures will be tightened even more this year.
Last year, officials believed the two gang members entered the Fair-park by scaling a fence. "I don't know how the shooter got in" the fair, Werner said Wednesday.
Russ Behrmann, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development, the agency that oversees the fair, says a lot of planning has taken place during the past year.
"We have reviewed (procedures) . . . last year with the Salt Lake Police Department and security."
He advises fairgoers to "exercise the same good judgment they would in any public place, but they should not be worried about their security."
Visitors shouldn't observe anything different at the fair, which opened Thursday afternoon for an 11-day run, because changes made are "passive changes," Behrmann says.
Officials decline to discuss the number of security personnel and police officers who will be present. But Werner says an "adequate number" would be ready to handle any problems if they arise.
"I'd like to tell people there is nothing to be afraid of" in coming to the fair, Werner emphasized.
He says he was standing about 10 feet away from those involved in last year's incident.
"It was an incident that was going to happen. It's just unfortunate that it occurred on the fairgrounds," he said.
Braegger says officers involved in the gang project, a multiple, jurisdictional task force representing 13 different law enforcement agencies in the Salt Lake Valley, don't anticipate any gang problems at the fair.
"If there is a problem, we will take care of . We just want the public to go and have a good time at the fair," Braegger said.
The officer said he doesn't believe the public should "allow anybody to legally control where they go. If we worried about every little thing . . . waiting to happen, we would never go outside our door. We should not accept gang-related behavior and allow that to control our fun times," Braegger said.