Scottsdale public safety efforts keep events season intact

Events like the Fiesta Bowl and Cactus Bowl draws large crowds to the Scottsdale area for hospitality and fun. (photo by Fiesta Bowl)

Every winter the city of Scottsdale gears up to welcome hundreds of thousands of guests and visitors to its community for the specialty events that have come to call the West’s Most Western Town, its home.

Events season, as its been coined by the city, includes nationally recognized happenings like the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction and the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Additionally, the Gooding & Company Scottsdale Auction, Arizona Sun Circuit Quarter Horse Show, Parada del Sol Parade, Russo & Steele Collector Automobile Auction and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show are only a few of the top events that also take place yearly in Scottsdale bringing in thousands of attendees.

In January 2016, the Barrett-Jackson auction brought in 350,000 attendees, while the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show brought in 320,000 attendees in February 2015, records provided by Experience Scottsdale show.

The Waste Management Phoenix Open tipped the scale with a record 618,365 attendees in 2016.

The Scottsdale police and fire departments are involved in the events planning process from the beginning stages.

“Many of the larger signature events take a large amount of planning and preparation to insure a safe and secure experience,” Scottsdale Police Officer Kevin Watts said in a Jan. 4 e-mailed response to questions. “For many of the events the planning starts soon after the previous year’s event wraps up.”

The Scottsdale Police Department is expecting to have over one million visitors within the first two months of 2017.

“It is definitely an honor and point of pride working for a city that is committed to providing a world class location for events both large and small,” said Officer Watts. “The men and woman of the Scottsdale Police Department are committed to providing the highest level of public safety service and insuring the safety for all of our residents and visitors.”

World class safety

The Scottsdale Police Department has a special events department that takes the lead on providing safety to the thousands of visitors in addition to the city’s 220,000 residents. The main goal of the department, said Officer Watts, is to provide the best safety possible.

“Our Special events section, comprised of a police sergeant and administrative specialist, works to insure all special evens within the city are staffed at a level to insure a safe and secure experience,” said Officer Watts.

“They coordinate with other city departments, the event holder and other public safety players to provide the experience that has come to be expected at an event held in the city of Scottsdale.”

The Waste Management Open can draw upwards of 100,000 people a day to a single event, Officer Watts said, which requires a vast amount of resources to provide the level of public safety needed.

“By supplementing Scottsdale police officers with law enforcement personnel from other agencies we are able to provide that level of service without impacting our day to day public safety commitments,” he explained.

Paradise Valley, a much smaller municipality neighboring Scottsdale with only about 12,000 residents, can provide additional officers to help Scottsdale, although Police Chief Peter Wingert says they have not been asked to assist.

“All Arizona agencies are covered under ‘mutual aid’ meaning that any agency can request assistance from another agency,” Chief Wingert said in a Jan. 4 e-mailed response to questions. “Paradise Valley has requested Phoenix, Scottsdale and DPS assistance during dignitary visits in the past.”

Chief Wingert said for these larger scale events, the town could provide an additional uniformed presence at the site of the event.

The events themselves are staffed by a majority of Scottsdale officers working in an off-duty capacity — receiving compensation from the event, Officer Watts said. Some of the larger events, such as Waste Management Phoenix Open, are staffed by both off-duty officer and officers working in an on-duty capacity, he said.

“A lot of our officers do look forward to working events like the Waste Management Open and Barrett-Jackson,” Mr. Watts said. “They are fantastic events with great attendees making providing public safety an unbelievable experience.”

In recent years the Scottsdale Police Department has conducted an educational detail known as “Know Your Limit” to teach event goes the effects of alcohol consumption. In 2016, over 9,000 people participated in the service at the Waste Management Open, where they were contacted prior to getting to their car.

“It is not an arrest-driven program,” said Officer Watts. “Of those, over 4,400 were at a limit over the state presumptive level of .08. The majority of those over the limit had already made the decision to not drive.”

Just down the street in the Town of Paradise Valley, Chief Wingert says driving-under-the-influence calls don’t necessarily increase during the events season in the winter months.

“DUI arrests are all over the place, but show a slight increase during the Holiday season,” he said. “Noise complaints seem to increase in the spring and fall, possibly because people are sleeping with their windows open. March, April, May, October, November and December are our peak months for noise complaints.”

The Fiesta Bowl brought fans from all over the country to the Valley of the Sun in late December. (photo by Fiesta Bowl)

All hands on deck

Collaboration between the police and fire department is a vital part of keeping event-goers safe, said Scottsdale Fire Department Division Chief Kerry Swick.

The types of events that happen within Scottsdale range in scale from small art walks to large auto auctions. Depending on the size and scope of each event determines what resources are needed.

By the time the event comes, the police and fire departments have outlined their priorities.

“We have already planned together with police and fire, so no one knows something the other side doesn’t. We’re very collaborative in that,” Mr. Swick said during a Jan. 5 phone interview. “We decide on decisions, strategies, tactics and how to mitigate big and little problems. It’s all decided together — that’s the important piece to the success.”

Mr. Swick described how each entity has mirrored roles.

“The command post for the Open, actually almost looks like a room with a mirror in it,” Mr. Swick joked. “If I’m sitting in a fire seat, there’s a police person sitting across from me sitting in the same position. For every piece of the puzzle we have both entities there.”

While a multitude of staff and resources is needed to support these events that occur multiple weeks throughout the year, it does not create an adverse effect on the residents of Scottsdale.

“We make it a city within a city by design for a couple of reasons,” said Mr. Swick. “If you need medical care quickly, you can’t wait for a fire truck to get through traffic and get onto the course. And, you should not have a reduced response, reduced service by police or fire because the event is going on down the street, and your resources are pulled into there from your children. That’s not fair to them.”

Carrying the Scottsdale brand is not a fact that goes unforgotten, said Mr. Swick.

“We know it’s very important to keep everyone safe, and everyone have a good experience because people know they’re in Scottsdale.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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