A series of changes and a maturing crowd and police department made this year’s Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami —ultra nice.
There were only 35 arrests over the three-day event at Bayfront Park that attracted more than 150,000 dancing, singing and partying — mostly young people — from all around the world.
That represented a drop in arrests by almost 50 percent from the previous year and continued a trend that’s been steadily decreasing since 2013.
“Education, co-operation and everybody is maturing,” said Miami police Lt. Freddie Cruz.
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As for the drugs that have plagued the event in the past and put Miami Fire Rescue on high alert, transports to emergency rooms — like arrests — took a precipitous drop this year.
“This year people were definitely following advice,” and laying off the drugs, said Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll.
Over the three-day weekend that began Friday, only 59 people were transported to area hospitals. And of those, fire rescue wouldn’t even begin to guess how many were drug related. Carroll said the crowds were more mature and overall calls for service were also much lower than in previous years.
The dynamics surrounding Ultra has been changed substantially since a 2014 incident almost caused the death of a security guard.
Now, you must be 18 or older to attend. Bottles and drugs can be dropped in amnesty boxes by the entrances. Only water and fannypacks are permitted inside the park. And roving teams of two graduate students from universities througout South Florida are constantly available for assistance.
The event itself is expensive and with hotels mostly booked, packages that include concert tickets are mostly sky-high. Also, new fencing popular at car races now divides the festival-goers in the park from anyone on Biscayne Boulevard who can’t get inside.
The changes stem from an incident three years ago when security guard Ericka Mack was trampled by fencing when a group of people outside the event crashed the gate and it toppled, landing on her head. She suffered brain hemorrhaging, recovered and filed a $10 million lawsuit against the festival and the city of Miami.