LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas State Fair will increase its security this year amid a surge of crimes in Little Rock.
Ralph Shoptaw, president of the event, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette the fair has purchased walk-through metal detectors for the first time in its 78-year history. The detectors, which cost about $1,500, are paid for through a surplus equipment program.
"With the rise in homicides, we just felt like it was something that we needed to be proactive on and take a little bit of extra precaution," Shoptaw said. "Because we just don't want anything ever to happen. A fairground is a place to have fun and enjoy, and we don't want anything to happen to make people feel unsafe."
In previous years, security guards have used handheld metal detectors to search for weapons. Weapons, including concealed carry firearms, are banned from the fairgrounds.
Shoptaw said additional lighting has also been installed in the parking lots and security will be conducting "roving patrols" in those areas.
"With the crime that we've had this year, we just think we need to step it up a little," Shoptaw said.
This year, Little Rock police have reported more than 2,350 violent crimes — including homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults — as of Sept. 4. That's an 18 percent increase than the department logged through the same time last year.
Officials with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office have said it also will have about 15 to 20 deputies patrolling the fair.
Little Rock police spokesman officer Steve Moore said more than 90 officers will be assigned to the fair.
"They're just looking for anything suspicious. ... and people getting unruly," Moore said.
The fair will be Oct. 12 to Oct. 22.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com