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Identity Tour Incident in Mansfield Sparks Debate on Curtailing Drug Use

Mansfield officials look into deterring drug and alcohol use at the Comcast Center after two men overdose at Thursday's Identity Tour.

After at the Comcast Center, Mansfield administrators and police are looking at a disturbing situation for the town.

The main question seems to be how can illegal drug use and underage consumption and overuse of alcohol be curtailed at the venue.

These two deaths at the Comcast Center mark the first time anyone has died because of drug or alcohol consumption, but the problem has been around since the early days of the venue when it started as Great Woods.

“Back then, we had Hell’s Angels,” Mansfield police chief Arthur O’Neill said.

O’Neill said that the amount and variety of chemicals at the venue have resurfaced since the 1970s, including LSD, PCP, marijuana and now Ecstasy.

Mansfield selectman George Dentino agreed that there is no way to stop mind-altering substances in the venue entirely, as legal drugs such as aerosol, Robitussin and salvia are readily available, let alone alcohol and other substances that can be easily transported.

“They can bring in aerosol cans; they can smoke bananas, there’s a lot of things they can do,” he said. “We can’t eliminate it, but if we can deter it, to some extent, and [if we do this] there is a percentage of the population out there that we have not brought into the venue with the stronger things. “

He said more methods to curtail and deter such use, however, could be put into place. He said that discharging people tailgating in the venue without a ticket would help, as well as drug detecting dogs.

“[One idea] was to publicize the fact with signs before you ever enter the parking area through the entry gates saying that alcohol, drugs, etc. are not allowed on the property and anyone found in possession of or utilizing such will be asked to leave or arrested,” he said. “I think it gives people the thought when reach the point when they see the sign, they have to make a decision… Do you want to go in there and gamble that you’re going to be able to pass through or do you want to turn around and go and dump it somewhere, alcohol or drugs. “

Dentino added that drug-detecting dogs may also weigh heavily on that person’s decision to try to get in with illegal substances.

Last year, the tour got into trouble with the Mansfield populace because of noise complaints. The issue was that the many speakers and stages made for so many directions of sound, there was little in the way of containing the music to the venue. Mansfield selectmen chair Olivier Kozlowski said that this year the noise issue didn't change.

“I was there from about 8:30 to 9:30 that night too,” he said. “This was obviously before we knew anything about anybody overdosing, but it sounded like the sound remediation efforts they put into place didn’t work. I think perhaps even then there was hesitation from the Comcast Center’s side as to whether they were going to have these folks back.”

Kozlowski added that it’s a tricky situation to exert prior restraint in deciding which bands or acts can and cannot play. O’Neill said he agreed.

“I wouldn’t welcome this particular tour back,” O’Neill said. “It's a thorny subject when you’re talking about keeping a particular show out of the venue, because you’re talking First Amendment when you get into that. On the other hand, if they don’t come back, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”

The Identity Tour continues to Atlanta Aug. 2 and no other incidents have yet been reported.

Tina Silverio August 03, 2012 at 11:03 PM
State police are needed for a wider area...especially when the knuckleheads get out of the concert and head out to 95 and 495. If staties get involved at all it should be in directing traffic out to 495 and watch for law-breakers. Mansfield police belong inside the venue as well as far enough from the venue so as to not be tied up with the concerts and be able to respond to "regular" MANSFIELD CITIZENS' emergencies.
Joe Calabro August 04, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Town officials are complaining that they don't have the resorces for the comcast center, yet, they are making record arrest and writing record number of tickets (that they approved last year). Just admit that you're trying to squeeze more money out of the comcast center, better yet, let them hire their own ambulance company instead of forcing them to hire yours. You can't have it both ways.
Tina Silverio August 04, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I have no problem with their hiring their own ambulances. My concern would be then that numbers will be hidden, as they likely already have. No one wants to admit, till now because there's no hiding it- that there's been as many problems as there has been and some feel that there is an issue with the head of security there and a conflict of interest. No one entity- not the mansfield police, not the selectmen, and not the parents of attendees-can eliminate the problem. unfortunately the only ones who can are the ones who are involved in the dangerous behavior- and they're not in the proper frame of mind to make the best decision, apparently.
Tina Silverio August 04, 2012 at 08:28 PM
And yes, Joe, the cops are making record arrests etc because the townspeople have had enough. the crowds leave the rest of the town at a serious disadvantage if an emergency elsewhere should occur. we may not be able to control individuals' behavior, but we can voice our protest at having our tax dollars spent on dangerously misbehaving people who are visiting our town.
Bev August 13, 2012 at 04:53 PM
When this was GREAT WOODS we had good entertainers coming in. Tina Turner, Cher, all good performers. Now we only get groups that are going to attract kids and kids on drugs. Why is everybody so surprised by this. it is most obvious to me. Try going back to 'the good old days' and bring some normal entertainers in and see it change!!

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