Miami-Dade County

Arrests low, praises high after Ultra Music Festival

Fans enjoy the music of Steve Angello at the Main Stage on Day 3 of Ultra Music Festival on Sunday, March 29, 2015.
Fans enjoy the music of Steve Angello at the Main Stage on Day 3 of Ultra Music Festival on Sunday, March 29, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Following three largely incident-free days of music and lights, representatives of one of Miami’s biggest parties declared Monday that the 17th edition of Ultra Music Festival was a resounding success.

“From a security standpoint, it went extremely well,” Ray Martinez, Ultra’s chief of security, said during an afternoon press conference as crews broke down the festival’s stages. “I think we demonstrated they [Ultra] are responsible promoters that can put on a great event here in beautiful downtown Miami, and that Ultra Music Festival belongs here.”

Those statements — echoed by police — come one year after a security guard was trampled and seriously injured by gate-crashers on opening night. The incident marred the world-renowned, three-day party, caused friction with Miami police, and led Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado to call on the city to boot the massive event from Miami.

But one year later, Ultra returned to Miami, promising that new security measures would prevent a repeat of 2014 and renew the focus on the dozens of DJs and live acts who have made the event one of the world’s most notable electronic dance music festivals.

It appears they were successful: On Monday, Miami police said the roughly 330 officers who patrolled the festival arrested only 76 people, the lowest number since 2012. About a third of the arrests were for unlicensed vendors, and only a quarter of those arrested were charged with a felony.

“Ultra came through and did what they said they were going to do,” said Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo, who serves as chairman of the Bayfront Park Trust, which holds the contract with Ultra. “As a world-class city, we should be able to hold world-class events.”

Ultra attendees told The Herald they believed a new 18-and-up policy improved the atmosphere of the event. Martinez said some attendees did actually deposit their illegal drugs into no-questions-asked “amnesty boxes” placed outside the festival gates to discourage drug use. And while some people did manage to slip into the event without tickets, gate-jumpers were mostly held at bay by new 12-foot fencing strong enough to stop a speeding race car.

“I give the analogy that people break out of prison,” Martinez, a retired Miami Beach police chief, said with a chuckle. “So we feel we had a very secure site here.”

Ultra was tangentially involved in tragedy this year. Martinez said his “thoughts and prayers” went out to Shaun Cole, a Scottish tourist who collapsed and died Sunday morning near Biscayne Boulevard and 80th Street, and to Alexander Sanghwan, who was critically injured in a hit-and-run crash.

Both men came to Miami from overseas to attend Ultra, according to WPLG and BBC News. But there’s no evidence that either incident is related to the music festival. And Miami police spokesman Officer Rene Pimentel said Monday that from a police perspective, Ultra went smoothly this year.

“Comparing our arrests to previous years, we were lower, very likely because of the increase in police officers and perhaps the different security strategies that were implemented by Ray Martinez,” said Pimentel. “Overall it was a pretty good crowd. You can not deny that. And we’re happy to have them here.”

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