Protecting State Fair Visitors

Saturday, September 29th 2007, 10:08 pm

By: News On 6

The Tulsa State Fair is in full swing. Safety at the fair is the top priority for the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. For ten days each year, they police crowds with more than 100,000 people crammed into a quarter-square-mile. The News On 6’s Joshua Brakhage reports more than a million people made it to the fair last year. That's a lot of opportunities for criminals to turn fairgoers into fair game.

"This is the biggest challenge of the year," said Captain Larry Merchant of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.

The 2007 Tulsa State Fair is Captain Larry Merchant's 23rd as a law enforcement officer. He says this year's fair has a new game plan.

"We have the fairgrounds divided up like a football field. We would be standing in the west end zone right now. We have a 100 yard line, a 50 yard line and a 10 yard line," Merchant said.

Captain Merchant says as long as everyone's playing their position, they have things covered.

"Our plan is to be everywhere, to look like we are omnipresent,” said Captain Larry Merchant. “And I think we do a pretty good job of that."

Friday night, the Sheriff's Office made three arrests for car break-ins and stolen cars, but they say considering the fact the crowds out here make this Tulsa's largest suburb, those are pretty good stats.

"We have a lot of cars out here, so one or two get broken into, but when you factor in the number of cars and the percentages that we're talking about, it's one of the safest places to be in Tulsa right now," Merchant said.

He says he could live without the actors shooting blanks just a few yards away and with fewer calls for lost children.

"Does being in a crowd this size make you nervous at all?" asked News On 6 reporter Joshua Brakhage.

"Scary, really scary,” said fairgoer and mother Mandy Ellsworth.

Mandy Ellsworth always keeps a firm grip on 6-year-old Cody and little sister Mia.

"And then we all wear the same shirt, just to keep track,” said Ellsworth. “Just to make things easier kind of, to know we're all one little group right here."

Almost a dozen kids are found by deputies every day. Deputies say they never go home until everyone's been reunited.

To help reunite lost children with their parents thousands of kids are wearing wristbands from the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. The bands have mom and dad's name and phone number on it just in case they get separated.

Watch the video: Deputies Protecting Fairgoers

To get more information about the Tulsa State Fair, click here.

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