Tuesday, November 14

Here's Why I Didn't Take My Family To The Fair This Year

Crime and perception of crime are basically the same thing to an outsider. Since I don't know the area near Duval's Fairgrounds, when I hear that shootings are happening within earshot of the fair and fights inside, I don't bring my family. After using Google Streetview and getting a better feel for the area, I now understand that the reason for my apprehension is slightly unfounded, but I'm still not sure for next year, since we all have the right to avoid becoming victims.


Gayle Hart told Action News Jax that it wasn't fair that the fair was getting a bad rap. Well, life isn't fair, and fairs are in August (except for in Florida, where they're in November). Back in 1998, I got my car broken into at a Milwaukee Bucks game when I parked about four blocks from the arena and near a shady neighborhood. I stopped buying my three-pack of tickets after that. It wasn't really the Bucks' fault or responsibility, and yet it was. I'll tell you this, what goes on inside the fair must be controlled, but it also matters what goes on outside the fair. That's fair, if you want me there.

I've seen the facts that show how much has been done when it comes to stopping people with assault rifles or bombs from entering the fair. That's fine, but what can be done about gunshots outside the fair or fights without guns inside?

Change of Venue
This is the most drastic of all changes, and most expensive. I'm sure people have discussed putting the fair up near the zoo, and there seems to be land to do it, but would that make sense? I'd probably pay extra for a pass to both attractions for the day. OK, maybe not on adjacent properties, but in that semi-abandoned part of town. I assume there's a lot of land in Baymeadows and Southside that would be in a flood plain and be no good for permanent housing or business, but might be just fine for a November event. Like I said, this has probably been considered before, and the idea was to make the fair accessible to the most people. The problem with accessibility is that it includes everyone. 

Change of Clientele
If you want to limit who attends the fair, you certainly can. Here's what Wisconsin's State Fair went to while we were living there (and still enforces):
Admission Policy (After 6 pm)
Fairgoers under 18 years of age entering the Fair after 6 pm must be accompanied by a parent or guardian 21 years of age or older. Proof of age is required.

A lot of people will say this isn't fair. It's ageism. It's racism. Classism. And maybe it doesn't even work to curb actual crime. But it did work on the perception of crime, and I continued to take my family. In fact, in a correspondence with Wisconsin State Fair, I learned more about the policy there.

It was opening night 2011 when fighting in the Midway led to fighting in the adjoining neighborhood. That led to the policy above, and the following attendance in years since:

2011: 911,231
2012: 920,962
2013: 1,012,552
2014: 1,030,881
2015: 1,033,053
2016: 1,015,815
2017: 1,028,049
In terms of actual data, I can tell you that since then our arrest rates have decreased significantly, with this past year being our all-time low (32 arrests). But I do need to qualify that we have also instituted the use of metal detectors at every gate (2016 & 2017) which also plays a part in this statistic.
The Wisconsin State Fair representative says there are a handful of complaints each year since the policy has been instituted, but the lower arrest rates and higher attendance mean that the policy isn't going anywhere.

Change of Policing 
I get it that the fair this year had a big fire to put out because people are worried about mass shootings. The problem is that there are actually two fires: terrorism and crime. Let's say terrorism is this big brush fire, but crime is this nasty little grease fire. Well, our local fair doused those fires with lots and lots of water. I'm pretty sure there's little chance of terrorism at Jacksonville's fair, and that's great. The problem is that most of the people of Jacksonville are not (or should not be) worried about terrorism on a daily basis. We're actually MORE worried about good old-fashioned, traditional American crime. The fair should also be worried about this. Most people don't really think international terrorists want to target Duval's County Fair, but we appreciate the concern. What most of us really want is to know that we can drive to and from the fair, and spend time at the fair, in relative safety, without worrying about car burglaries or feeling intimidated. That's more than a bunch of metal detectors and officers looking for potential terrorists to tackle. It means securing the surrounding area and profiling large groups of young people that might intimidate fairgoers.

It's actually very fair: you eliminate crime and the perception of crime, and you can thrive as a destination. I'm still looking for that place. There was a shooting at the beach on July 4th (the night we were there) and at the St. Johns Town Center (within a week of us being there), so I have perceptions of those places and times as much as of the fair. The good news for the fair is that it's two weeks of being vigilant and then you can let the surrounding area go to hell if you want. But you better make sure there's not a peep next year, especially if nothing is done just because you don't think it's fair.