ComFest Arrests Increase 241 Percent

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This year’s Community Festival at Goodale Park saw hotter temperatures and increased police presence than previous events. And the increase in police officers could have led to a huge increase in arrests. Some area residents say the extra police made for a better festival, while others’ experiences were sub-par.

After a young man stabbed himself to death while on hallucinogens at last year’s Community Festival at Goodale Park, event organizers and Columbus Police increased the number of police officers at this year’s festival.

And as the number of police increased, so did the number of arrests. Columbus Police spokesperson Sergeant Rich Weiner said 41 people were arrested this year. That’s a 241 percent increase over last year. Most offenses, Weiner said, were drug related. Some arrests were for assault, theft or child endangerment.

In addition to the increased officers, Columbus Police used a new tool to monitor the festival. Officers were positioned in a portable observation tower overlooking the crowd.

“You can see a lot more from the ground than you can from the ground level,” he said.

ComFest organizers hired 54 special duty police officers for the event. And Weiner said the division sent additional forces, although he would not say how many. And area residents noticed the extra police presence. Richard Parish who lives on Goodale Park.

“This year I thought it went extremely well. And one of the reasons why I think it did, I know a lot of the people were complaining about the police force being increased, and all that, but as far as I was concerned they did an excellent job,” Parish said.

In recent years, as many as 70,000 people have converged on Goodale Park for ComFest.

Micki Pike heads up logistics for the festival. She said this year’s attendance numbers were down. She said she thinks the heat and humidity were the deterrent. Although Pike said the increased police presence could have played a role. “Probably kept some of the people that we normally don’t want at our event anyways away,” Pike said.

But the police were not enough to prevent every unruly festival-goers from attending. Pat Collins has lived in one of the historic Victorian homes on Goodale Park since the mid-1970s, and has witnessed many ComFest events from her front porch.

Collins would say she has seen it all: from people sleeping on her front stoop to party-goers defecating in the alley next to her home.

This year, Collins says she was “very impressed” with the added police patrol and the new festival hours which ended the event earlier each night than in years past. Those feelings went by the wayside Sunday afternoon.

“A couple of my friends came over, and we were sitting on the front porch playing cards,” Collins said.

That’s when Collins and her friends noticed several men jumping out in the middle of the street causing cars to stop. Then, she said, the men made their way onto her front yard.

“And I said would you move on, move on. Get off my property,” she said.

At that point, Collins said, it escalated to a level she’s never before experienced with the ComFest crowd.

“Well they came right up on the porch. I was starting to get up, you know, at that point. He held me down in the chair. And he stuck his ugly, smelly face in mine and had this other guy take my, take our picture, you know. So, somebody said it’ll probably be on (Youtube) or Facebook or something. And I hope it is because I want him arrested,” Collins said.

When the men noticed Collins had picked up her phone to call the police they began to leave, but not before one of the men, “Drops (trousers) and throws his butt up in my face. I could identify that anywhere. It’s the ugliest thing I ever saw,” Collins recounted.

Collins did file a report with Columbus Police. The word “assault” was written on the police report card.

Collins said ComFest has gotten too big. And organizer Micki Pike would agree. ComFest originally surrounded social, cultural and political issues. Over the years attendance has grown, almost beyond what Goodale Park can handle. Pike said there soon may be changes that she hopes will help alleviate the crowd issues and bring the festival back to its roots.

“I think the more that we continue to bring our spirit and purpose back on the stages and get more speakers and tweak the programming we’ll get the crowd that we want that is here for the purpose and not just the party,” she said.