Friday, February 08, 2002

Mardi Gras a go, but police keeping tight rein

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Let the Good Times Roll, sort of.

        Two years after unruly crowds prompted the cancellation of the 2001 public Mardi Gras celebration in Covington's MainStrasse Village, officials are planning this weekend's event with the precision of a military operation.

   • What: 2002 MainStrasse Village Mardi Gras.
   • When: Today and Saturday. Ticket booths open at 5 p.m. each night, and you must be 21 to buy a ticket. Beverage sales begin at 7 p.m. Cost is $10 per ticket, per night.
   • Where: Covington's MainStrasse Village. Parades begin at 7:30 p.m. each night. The parades begin at Sixth and Philadelphia streets, go south on Philadelphia to Seventh Street, east on Seventh Street to Main Street, and north on Main Street to Sixth Street.
   • Entertainment: The Rusty Griswolds perform immediately after tonight's parade. On Saturday, Leroy Ellington & E Funk performs after the parade.
   • Information: (859) 491-0458.
        In light of Mardi Gras-related disturbances in cities around the country, some problems in Covington itself and the weekend weather report, that planning is key.

        Two years ago, unseasonably warm weather and better promotion tripled Covington's usual Mardi Gras crowd to 60,000. Residents complained that drunken revelers vandalized homes and businesses, urinated in back yards and left piles of litter.

        Because temperatures are expected to reach well above 50 today and Saturday, Covington Police Chief Tom Schonecker has assigned more than 35 officers — about 15 more than two years ago — to work Mardi Gras. That excludes the normal shift personnel, who will be called upon as needed.

        Unlike past Mardi Gras celebrations, anyone arrested will be processed at a Community Orient ed Policing office within the MainStrasse neighborhood, and Kenton County Detention Center employees will take rowdy celebrants to jail, so police can focus on crowd control.

        “The crowd's going to dictate how we react,” Chief Schonecker said. “We can always scale down, but we want to be prepared for a big crowd.”

        Preparedness is the key to a successful Mardi Gras or other large event, says Marlon Defillo, assistant superintendent in charge of policy and planning for the New Orleans Police Department. And he should know.

        For more than two decades, Mr. Defillo has played a major role in planning and executing security for Mardi Gras and other major events in New Orleans, such as this year's Super Bowl and the annual Jazzfest.

        Covington police plan to arrest anyone caught urinating in public, while those who show a little too much skin or violate liquor laws will be handled at the officer's discretion, Chief Schonecker said.

        Although public displays of nudity, such as a woman flashing her breasts, are illegal in New Orleans, police there generally avoid arresting celebrants for indecent exposure unless public safety is threatened, Mr. Defillo said.

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