Security changes coming to Riverbend Festival
Chattanooga's largest event, Riverbend, will have some changes to the way security is done this year.
In the past, mostly Chattanooga Police officers were in charge of keeping everyone safe at the festival, but now organizers say they'll be fewer of them and we'll see guards from a private security company.
In exactly one month, hundreds of thousands of Riverbend-goers will crowd downtown for the eight day long festival. Friends of the Festival Executive Director Chip Baker was unavailable for an interview, but confirms the organization's board is making changes to the security plan that includes hiring a private security firm.
Councilman Moses Freeman is chairman of the city's new Public Safety Committee. He's been in close contact with Friends of the Festival as it makes changes to Riverbend's safety plans.
"I just told him that was their prerogative to do so and the Chattanooga Police Department would still be around to protect the city as it always has," Freeman said.
Organizers are looking to hire a private security firm instead of mostly Chattanooga Police officers, like in the past.
"I guess it has something more to do with finances than it did anything else," Freeman said.
Police department sources tell Channel 3 on any given day, Chattanooga has 60 officers covering the city. At Riverbend, there's usually between 60 to 100 officers covering just the festival each day.
Baker wouldn't say how many fewer officers there will be this year, but Freeman says he's confident safety won't be compromised.
"I think we were over secure in the past so now we're getting down to a reasonable sized security. It will be adequate," Freeman said.
Some festival-goers disagree.
"I think they should keep it like it was personally," Tacarra Hodges said.
Several people we talked to say they hope the private security guards have guns like police officers.
"With the Boston bombings that happened recently, that's really taken a toll on everybody, so I think it's something you should always have precautions of," Samantha Hart said.
Freeman says some will be armed, but again, no concrete numbers are available.
"I know for a fact that the police department will be in the background to be available if needed," Freeman said.
Baker says the Friends of the Festival board still has to vote on a final proposal, but that they're working with CPD to come up with a detailed plan. Deputies with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office will also help with security again this year.
Baker says attendees will also notice an emphasis on searches when you're entering the Riverbend gates.