Security analyst studying crowd control to make Beale St. safer

(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Getting onto Beale Street this summer won't cost you a thing!

Downtown officials are doing away with the controversial "Beale Street Bucks" program as part of a security overhaul.

Security officials will be looking at new measures to keep one of the world's most iconic streets safe.

Among this weekend's partiers and Beale Street first-timers will be former Australian Army special forces officer Peter Ashwin, hired by the city to find ways to make the famous street safer.

"You need to understand the dynamics of the street because it's a very unusual place," Ashwin said.

Ashwin with Event Risk Management Solutions told the Beale Street Task Force Friday that he'll be using the busy Memorial Day weekend to study crowd control.

Of the 19 stampedes on the street since 2013, 25 percent occurred on Memorial Day weekend, including a scare back in in 2016.

"All of us out here and at times we've felt very uncomfortable and understand what that is and prevent that from happening because at some point it becomes unsafe," Ashwin said.

Some of the security measures they plan to enact include routing visitors from the overcrowded 2nd Street entrance to the under-utilized 3rd Street entrance, adding more cameras, and have a higher focus on surrounding areas.

"You noted the last shooting occurred on 4th Street, that 4th Street incident led to that stampede on Beale Street because people heard gunshots," said Berlin Boyd, a member of Beale Street Task Force.

As far as the Beale Street Bucks program is concerned, data showed that crime decreased by 30 percent when there was a fee to enter the street.

"Some people probably would think about going somewhere else if they had to pay a fee," said tourist Carol Evans.

But this task force said they want to focus on other measures to keep Beale safe.

"Don't worry, we're not going to bring Beale Street bucks back this year," Boyd said.

The task force is also looking into ways to protect Beale Street from vehicle ramming attacks, like the ones in Germany and New York City.

The target date to have final security recommendations to the task force is by late June.

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