Keeping NASCAR fans safe, secure

 

Dover International Speedway security guards Robin Streaker of Middletown, left, and Jena Gardner of Dover stand watch over the main gate in between Turns 2 and 3 Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Dover International Speedway security guards Robin Streaker of Middletown, left, and Jena Gardner of Dover stand watch over the main gate in between Turns 2 and 3 Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Disorderly conduct and an occasional theft.

If arrests come during NASCAR weekend, those are the likely causes, authorities said.

That doesn’t mean the gathering of race fans is any more prone to committing offenses. But, a variety of issues arise during any large scale event coming to the city.

From Friday through Sunday, Dover Police Department will be part of a round-the-clock effort to provide security at Dover International Speedway. City police will be joined by Delaware State Police, speedway-hired personnel and Contemporary Services Corp.

They’ll likely face alcohol-related issues, police said, which also come with other significant gatherings as well.

“As with any large event, alcohol use increases with the population increase,” Dover police spokesman Cpl. Mark Hoffman said. “Depending on the weather, we will see an increase in calls for dehydration that is often associated with alcohol consumption.

“We typically handle a handful of people throughout the weekend that are highly intoxicated as well.”

Indeed — a Dover Police Department news release earlier this week regarding fan safety and security listed “Do not drink and drive or cross roadways when impaired,” as the first tip.

Working in concert with the Delaware Department of Transportation, police also guide traffic in, out and past the speedway as the crowd grows for race starts and checkered flags.

“A smooth traffic flow reduces motor vehicle accidents and generally keeps things easier for the local citizens as well as the race fans coming to Dover,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Dover Motorsports, Inc., security manager Jim Hosfelt coordinates all track security operations. He said participating entities meet on a monthly basis to keep plans updated.

“We take a good, hard stance on security and anti-terrorism measures,” he said. “This isn’t something we throw together on short notice.

“We go through a lot of extra efforts to make for a safe and enjoyable experience for race fans coming to Dover.”

Mr. Hosfelt said the local speedway is one of only two NASCAR tracks that uses security wands to check on fans coming though the gates. Contemporary Services Corp. handles patrons entering, including screening of bags.

Speedway staff monitor infield safety issues, Mr. Hosfelt said, along with covering garages and pit row, along with patrolling campground areas with city and state police.

The city’s police force receives mandatory overtime for officers who are scheduled off-duty, and authorities won’t disclose the number of members working.

According to Cpl. Hoffman, officers who work traffic control and fan safety duties are paid by Dover International Speedway at an overtime rate of time-and-a-half.

The public can assist in the congestion by arriving early and/or staying late, along with walking carefully around highly-traveled U.S. 13 and the near vicinity.

“Race weekend brings a lot of lot pedestrian traffic to the Route 13 corridor, especially with a wide range of businesses/private properties offering camping to race fans and pop-up retail establishments to set up shop,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

“It is a large increase in pedestrian traffic compared to what Dover sees on an average day, so reminding the public to be cautious and look out for pedestrians is important.”

This stretch — late May and June — keeps Dover police officers busier than any other time of the year, authorities said. Once NASCAR is finished, the Firefly and Big Barrel Country Festival musical events follow in short order.

“The long hours and many consecutive days of working the events and regular shifts can be grueling, but the fans of all the events are always very respectful and appreciative of our presence,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

“When these events end, race and festival fans continually thank our officers as they exit the facility.”

Officials said regular security-related meetings are held year-around and the plans are ever-adapting based on past results and anticipated crowd logistics.

“We have an excellent relationship with Dover Speedway/Dover Downs and continually meet to discuss improvements on everything from traffic control to fan safety and emergency preparedness, including multiple training exercises that involve speedway staff,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

“We may be two separate entities, but we all have the same common goal of ensuring a safe experience for race and festival attendees and employees.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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