SM PIER — The Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Dance Series is back and so are grumblings about cops trying to spoil all the fun, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth, police said.
Only one person was arrested last Thursday during the first installment of the popular summer concert series, and he was booked for being “extremely intoxicated and basically urinating on the beach in front of everybody,” said Sgt. Richard Lewis, spokesman for the Santa Monica Police Department.
“We’re trying our best to compromise,” Lewis said, with cops rarely issuing citations for minor infractions. “We want people to enjoy the evening, but we also want them to clean up their mess.”
Lewis said anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 people attend the free shows each week, and there are roughly six officers assigned to provide security.
Officers on ATVs and on foot patrol the pier deck and the beach to the south where thousands lay down blankets and set up umbrellas to enjoy the music, which ranges from salsa to rock, reggae to ballroom. Some of those visitors sneak sips of booze or puff on marijuana. Others bring dogs and glass containers, all of which are illegal.
Neighborhood Resource Officer Richard Carranza, who is responsible for patrolling the beach and pier areas, said the goal of officers is to maintain order so that everyone can enjoy the show, and police are fairly lenient when it comes to people smoking or drinking alcohol on the beach. Instead of issuing citations, officers will approach people committing minor offenses and advise them of the law. If they do not listen, then officers write tickets or make arrests, Carranza said.
“The majority of people out there are there to have a good time and are good people who honestly don’t know that they cannot smoke or can’t bring their wine and stuff like that,” he said.
Some concert-goers last week were not happy with the presence of ATVs and officers ordering people off the beach when the show ended. The beach does not close at night and certain areas of the pier are also open 24 hours a day.
Carranza said the ATVs, while sometimes distracting to concert-goers, are the safest way to patrol the large crowds because they are more maneuverable than trucks.
Regarding closing time, Carranza said officers are not trying to prevent people from hanging out on the sand, but are merely trying to get the crowd to disperse because of concerns about fights breaking out or people becoming easy targets for pickpockets. Carranza also said officers are specifically assigned to monitor the concerts and would much rather move on to other duties once they are finished instead of “babysitting” the crowd.
Steve Gibson, interim executive director of the Pier Restoration Corp., the nonprofit that manages the pier and produces the concert series, said his office has not received any complaints about the police presence at last week’s concert.
“It was an incredible night,” Gibson said of the concert. “People of all ages were moving to the music and having a great time smiling.”
The nonprofit hires additional, private security to do crowd control and monitor people going in and out of the wine and beer area.
Those planning to attend tonight’s show featuring the all-female band The Bangles should remember a few things that are off limits, Carranza said.
It is illegal to smoke cigarettes on the beach and on the pier deck. It is also illegal to bring booze, and any type of glass container.
“That includes Pyrex or CorningWare food containers or anything made of glass,” Carranza said. “If someone breaks it, they may not get up all the big pieces, but then the next day a kid comes along playing in the sand and slices their foot open. It’s a public safety issue.”
Naturally, smoking marijuana or ingesting other drugs is off limits, as is urinating underneath the west end of the pier, something that has unfortunately become commonplace, Carranza said. Signs are posting warning people that the area is closed to the public.
Tents are cool, but only if they are not fully enclosed. Camping is not allowed.
“This isn’t Woodstock,” Carranza said.