Albany City Manager addresses concerns after fireworks fight

City Manager James Taylor from a story done earlier in 2012. / From file

Albany City manager James Taylor has released a statement about the 4th of July fireworks incident.

The statement reflects on how they will handle things in the future and the history of events held in Albany. You can read the full statement below:

Many citizens are upset and disappointed in what went wrong during the City of Albany's Fireworks Display Celebration of the 236th birthday of our nation. There has been a lot said but
here are the facts as I know them:

1. A group of hard working City employees worked hard to develop a wonderful event for our citizens and surrounding communities to be spoiled by small groups of unsupervised young people.
2. There were no shootings, and no stabbings.
3. There were groups of underage and unaccompanied children who were involved in fights.
4. In an effort to gain control of these groups, the officer-in-charge on-scene caused the fireworks grand finale to be delayed.
5. We were unable to communicate what was really going on to the crowd and it appears that misinformation and panic occurred.
6. There were two juveniles arrested.

What happened during the 4th of July Fireworks display, on our 236th birthday in our city should not have happened, and as a result, we learned some things:

1. We learned that we must control the crowd, restrict people to specific areas, rather than have people roaming all over downtown. Based on the size of the crowd we must be able to resize the event area so we can effectively manage and protect our citizens.
2. Limit or eliminate the participation of underage persons unaccompanied by adults, we are researching what other communities are doing to prevent future incidents.
3. We must light up the night; to the extent that we can, we must be able to light on demand areas that are potential trouble spots.
4. We must develop or acquire effective communications, people did not know what was happening and we had no effective way to tell them quickly.
5. We must no longer permit people to hang around the area, either they must be in the event or they are not; that is to say that once individuals are admitted to the event area they must stay there or they must leave the area altogether. They can no longer just hang around outside of the boundaries and/or barricades.
6. We must develop a special events risk management plan to address risk challenges to include weather, and other disturbances.

Here are some things we think people should also know about Albany Downtown events:

1. For more than twenty years, we have displayed fireworks on the 4th pretty much without incident.
2. We've held many downtown events with few or no incidents I.e. the Mardi Gras for ten years, the International Festival for some four years, the Flint Festival for some three years, and numerous "First Fridays", "Nights @ Dtown , "Movies in the Park", etc., with great turnouts and no incidents.
3. Let's not forget the Albany State University annual "Homecoming" that has gone on without incident from time immemorial.

We refuse to have our community defined by one incident, we are moving forward and ask that the community move forward with us. We will determine what happened and take action to fix the problems. Our plan is to continue to serve the community with more events; however, given what we know we will make some changes, some of these changes will take time and others will cost money, but I think it is important we proceed to make future events downtown safer than ever, and we ask for your help and continued support. Some of the changes will likely cause some delays in getting in and out of downtown events, so be patient as we figure things out. We ask for an opportunity to earn your confidence again, judge us by what we do going forward, not by the misconduct of a few. We don't have all the answers in absolute terms, but we do know that going forward we must have policies and procedures that:

1. Address unaccompanied under age people; the City nor event organizer should be expected to serve as a childcare service.
2. We must call upon community based organizations and churches to help us deliver wholesome entertainment for our community.
3. Improve communications to people attending these large events, we must ensure that people are kept well informed as to what is going on for a number of reasons.
4. Better use of our surveillance systems; with controlled points of entry we can better ensure participants that unauthorized items don't enter the event site and we can manage incidents as they are happening.
5. We must eliminate the misinformation. There are so many mistruths being written and spoken in a number of places.
6. We will continue to arrest violators, and we will proceed to develop policies to also hold the parents of youthful offenders liable of the conduct of their children I.e. "Special Events Curfew".

Thanks for your continued participation and trust,
James Taylor, City Manager