Olmsted County Fair amps up security with relationship building

Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 7:27 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – The Olmsted County fair is back and ready to welcome guests Monday. While it’s the first day, a lot of the fan favorites, like the carnival midway, don’t start until 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Monday, folks were still setting up at the fairgrounds including security.

“Last year there were some issues,” Olmsted County Fair president Scott Schneider said.

Schneider said some of those issues were fighting between kids.

“The issues were spilled over from the school district,” he said. “These kids haven’t seen anyone at school, and with social media they started saying things they wouldn’t normally say and all the sudden they feel like they needed to do something. And bring it to the fair, because there’s a platform. No one was in danger. It was just some kids who wanted to fight and kids who wanted to watch.”

It prompted the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office to put a curfew in place last year.

“We have extra additional people to help, work with kids,” Schneider said. “Not just make it hard on them, but to include them. how can we help feel included. It’s a community event.”

Something this year: Rochester’s Community Engagement Response Team, or C.E.R.T., will be patrolling alongside officers. Between OCSO and Rochester Police Department, there will be 14 to 16 patrolling officers/deputies, 20 on busy nights and 10 C.E.R.T. members.

Community Services Team Capt. at RPD, Jeff Stilwell doesn’t believe a curfew will be necessary this year. He says part of that reason is the relationship building his team has done with youth over this last year.

“We’re out here before there’s any problem. People see us out in the environment,” Stilwell said. “We talk to them before there’s a problem. That way if anything arises, you know, we’re there. We already built that relationship and it just reduces conflict a lot by just being out here and engaging with people.”

Also new this year, agencies have allocated $500 per officer/deputy to reward kids with fair goodies to encourage good behavior.

“They are creating relationships and trying to make everyone feel a part of it,” Schneider said.

Schneider and Stilwell agree this year, security preparation goes beyond a few weeks.

“We’ve spent a lot of time building relationships with youth and the school and community,” Stilwell said. “And we are going to leverage those relationships this year at the fair to make sure everybody can have a good time.”

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