by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:
SEATTLE - Seattle police are ramping up security at the electronic dance music party Freak Night held at the WaMu Theater.
Police said they saw drug dealing and drug use at the event last year and expect more of the same.
More than 20,000 people crowded into the venue Friday night.
Tiffany Tate and Seth Robbins both came from Bellingham for this year's Freak Night. They said they felt safe at last year's event, but Robbins admits there is a lot of illegal activity.
"There is definitely a drug scene there," he said. "There's all sorts of things going around. Don't know what."
Last year, Medic responded to seven calls, all related to drugs or alcohol, and took four people to the hospital in critical condition. Initially, SPD had only a few officers staffing the event, but had to increase numbers significantly to respond.
"That security was inadequate," Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said. "We ended up taking resources that were supposed to be handling 911 emergency response in other parts of downtown and repurposing them to provide public safety services around Century Link. That wasn't ideal and it's a lesson learned for us."
This year, Seattle police will have a lot more officers outside the venue, though Whitcomb is not releasing numbers.
He would not say if they'll have undercover officers inside.
"We think it's incredibly dangerous," Whitcomb said of the event. "We think there are a lot of risks associated with use of a drug known as Molly."
Molly is similar to ecstasy.
Unlike last year, SPD is not allowing off-duty officers to work private security inside.
"You're saying that there's concern that organizers could possibly pressure officers to not report or respond to drug use?" KIRO 7 asked.
"It puts officers in an awkward position," Whitcomb said.
Police said officers can't work off-duty at other private venues with potential drug use like nightclubs.
But Alex Fryer, who represents the organizer, USC Events, said they've never told SPD to avoid arrests.
"We expected to always have our off-duty officers enforce the law as they have in years past," he said.
He said private security officers are focused on keeping people safe and calm, not tracking down potential drug use.
"So is the event condoning drug use then?" KIRO 7 asked.
"We have been very clear: We have a no-tolerance policy for drugs," Fryer said.
He said last year the event had 228 private security officers and this year it will have 380.
They have also added entrances and there will be no in and out privileges for attendees once they enter.
"We expect this to be the safest venue in all of King County," he said.
He said if security finds drugs, it will call police.
Freak Night starts at 7:30 p.m. and runs until 4 a.m. on Saturday.
It will also run on Saturday night.