Smart Strategies for Effectively Managing Entertainment Districts

Charles Penn

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Entertainment districts are—and will continue to be—a significant homeland security concern due to the large numbers of people who gather at these locations. In the United States, people are fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a variety of activities ranging from sporting events to cultural events to parades, where they can relax, enjoy themselves, and associate with others. Entertainment districts attract people for similar reasons and, therefore, require that additional measures be taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone present. The goal of this thesis was to identify “smart practices” for managing entertainment districts. This was accomplished through a review of applicable literature followed by a series of case studies, which facilitated the identification of these practices.
Traditional special events and entertainment districts share many similarities such as large crowds of people along with traffic, pedestrian, and security-related concerns. When evaluating the differences between managing entertainment districts and traditional special events, two primary concerns must be considered: 1) special events are often relatively short in nature, and 2) they normally do not involve the significant levels of alcohol-related concerns that are a daily problem in entertainment districts. While traditional security protocols are certainly applicable to both venues, research indicates that the successful management of entertainment districts requires a much more robust and comprehensive strategy to effectively maximize safety while at the same time fostering an enjoyable atmosphere. To create an effective strategy to manage entertainment districts, localities must be familiar with applicable concepts and theories to craft comprehensive strategies that will be successful in their individual communities.
The concept of “place management” has received significant attention in research as it relates to managing entertainment districts. The Institute of Place Management defines place management as “a coordinated, area-based, multi-stakeholder approach to improve locations, harnessing the skills, experiences and resources of those in the private, public and voluntary sectors.” In its simplest terms, place management is the concept that the actions and decisions of business managers and their employees, or “place managers,” impact how a business operates. It also stands to reason that if patrons are permitted to behave in any manner they like while inside an establishment, they may also have the same expectation when they exit, which impacts the public space that is under the control of local authorities. Ideally, meaningful and collaborative relationships are formed that support similar behavioral expectations both inside and outside a business—with law enforcement establishing a tone for people to enjoy public spaces and place managers enforcing behavioral expectations inside their businesses.
Several researchers have focused their attention on why some bars have significantly more violence than others. Franquez et al. refer to the small number of businesses accounting for the highest number of criminal incidents as “risky facilities.” Furthermore, they suggest, “What is generally found to separate risky facilities from low crime places is a combination of place management and premise notoriety.” This concept is further illustrated in a Kansas City study by Lawrence Sherman et al., who found that “13% of the city’s 535 taverns produced half of the 11,338 offenses that occurred over a five-year period.” Madensen and Eck suggest that “observed concentrations of crime in and among bars is largely the result of choices made by those who own and manage these establishments.” The evidence clearly suggests that the concept of place management plays a role in managing entertainment districts, but it also suggests that a multi-prong approach is necessary.
Arlington County, Virginia, is home to a thriving entertainment district in the Clarendon area with 25 businesses serving alcohol to a combined capacity of approximately 7,000 people in a relatively small geographic area, with an approximate quarter-mile radius. It was clear that traditional enforcement efforts alone could not solve the problems in this increasingly popular area, and collaborative strategies were necessary to effectively manage it and ensure it remained an enjoyable place to visit. A detailed progression of efforts in this area is outlined in Chapter III to demonstrate the importance of deployment decisions, security protocols, collaborative partnerships, and innovative initiatives.
Law enforcement representatives from nine additional jurisdictions were interviewed at length on a number of different topics including deployment strategies, challenges in their areas, successful initiatives, outreach initiatives, collaborative partnerships, training, community expectations and tolerance, and agency goals and performance metrics. Particular focus was given to the successful strategies that each jurisdiction identified. Chapter IV describes the information obtained from each interview by jurisdiction. An analysis of the responses led to grouping the initiatives into several different categories. Not surprisingly, the most common categories of successful initiatives included officer deployment strategies as well as communication and collaboration efforts. While many different initiatives were outlined, this grouping allowed for synthesis in terms of smart practices.
This research demonstrates that smart strategies for managing entertainment districts require a collaborative multi-agency/entity approach to reduce crime and disorder through the implementation of a variety of different initiatives. Furthermore, to be successful, agencies should emphasize relationship-building and the training of all stakeholders to facilitate informed and professional place managers who are capable of reducing crime and disorder while improving the overall management and atmosphere of the entertainment district.

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