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October 22, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Police crack down on security, alcohol on Fremont Street

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Joe Schoenmann

Metro Police Detective R. Bass stands at the 4th Street entrance to the Fremont Street Experience, where heavy security and police were employed to maintain watch over an expected crowd of some 40,000 people.

Combatting the heat, many thousands of people drank thousands more gallons of alcohol while roaming Fremont Street last night.

For some, cold beer and iced drinks were a nice respite. For others who couldn't or wouldn't follow police commands, it led to problems.

Adam Frampton, 30, with two friends around 9:30 p.m., at Fremont and 4th streets, were drinking cans of beer with a few extras in their pockets.

Nope, the police said. They told them to throw away the containers and to get into the area where the music was emanating from, they had to get in the security line.

"They're just doing their job," Frampton said.

Others who didn't comply dealt with the less friendly side of the law.

One young underage drinker was being frisked, when he attempted to stomp on the officer's feet. Suddenly, four officers put him on the ground, emptied his pockets and handcuffed him.

There were so many people wandering around, the brief police action caught attention, then faded from memory. And many thousands kept streaming through the security check to get into the Fremomt Street Experience, the heart of downtown home to iconic casinos such as the Golden Nugget, Four Queens and the Golden Gate.

"It's only on First Friday," Detective R. Bass told dozens of people as he directed them toward the security entrance.

The first Friday of the month has become such a downtown draw, police say it attracts as many people as on New Year's Eve. A little more than a year ago, a shooting and two knifings happened under the Experience.

Both casinos owners and street vendors downtown have complained the ongoing chaotic atmosphere is killing business. The city is moving on several new laws meant to curb drinking, and more laws are on the way to address panhandlers and street entertainers.

Attacking problems, the city has begun enacting new laws to address drinking downtown But there is still confusion about what is and is not allowed on the Fremont Street Experience, a public-private venture where both city rules and Experience regulations govern.

The city, however, is considering an ordinance that is expected to clarify the rules.

One idea, expected to be approved in two weeks, would ban outdoor alcohol consumption from bottles and cans. Even so, Metro police were already forcing some to throw away their cans and bottles.

Fremont Street Experience representatives could not be reached for comment late Friday night.

A security funnel was also set up at entrances to the Experience forcing entrants to go through a quick metal-wand scan and ID check. No one under 21 could enter.

At the other end of the street, the Fremont East Entertainment District had less security than a year ago. Back then, the crowds were so dense and instead of going into the bars, thousands of people simply loitered on the sidewalks.

This year there seemed as many people but they had more room to roam. The Container Park, an outdoor mall, opened two blocks further east.

And as Kristal Ramirez, who works downtown, so aptly put it: "People walk to the fire."

At the Container Park's entrance around 10:30 p.m., a gigantic metal praying mantis intermittently shoots flames out of its antennae.

Three dudes with shiny beads and beers stared at the flame.

"Wanna go in there?" one said.

"What is it?" said another.

"I 'on't know."

And they walked in.

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