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November 04, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, November 04, 2005

Summer Jam concert a liability Summer Jam concert a liability (November 04, 2005)

Even if by some miracle the city and the owners of Shoreline Amphitheatre resolve their accounting dispute, it is time for the city council to either bring down the curtain on the unnecessarily violent Summer Jam concert, or force the owners to pay for a major upgrade in security.

The end of the popular hip-hop concert will be a moot point if the city prevails in its massive lawsuit charging Clear Channel and a subsidiary with intentionally misstating revenues since 1999 in order to avoid paying the city its 6.75 percent share. The trial on the city's $3.6 million in financial claims, which includes damages, is set for February in Superior Court.

But no matter how the bookkeeping issue is resolved, the city should seriously consider putting a lid on this concert outright, or at lease force Clear Channel to drastically improve security. Several city council members already have voiced concern about the most recent concert on Aug. 21, which nearly overwhelmed the 70 Mountain View police officers attempting to keep the peace at Shoreline.

The violence continued that evening after the concert, culminating in the shooting death of a young man about a mile from Shoreline. Police say the incident was the continuation of a fight between Oakland and East Palo Alto groups that originated at the day's event.

Although he stopped short of calling for an end to the concert, Police Chief Scott Vermeer told the Voice last week, "In a perfect world they would cancel it."

After hearing Chief Vermeer describe to city council members his department's battle with the unruly and often out-of-control Summer Jam crowd, it is very clear that something must be done.

His frightening description of the department's problems is worth repeating. Among the details:

* When police SWAT teams left their posts outside and converged on a fight inside the amphitheater, Shoreline's own security was overrun by a mob that stormed the gate and did not pay for tickets;

* Concert patrons also abandoned their cars in the roadway outside the gates in order to block police from responding to brawls;

* Police found one person who was slashed with a box-cutter knife, and another who carried a pistol inside the concert.

Chief Vermeer told the council, "To get something like this under control, we'd have to take a totally different stance than we do with any other show. The staffing is going to be huge."

It is difficult to assess whether the city's lawsuit against Shoreline is making it more difficult for the parties to discuss serious issues like crowd control at the Summer Jam concert. But regardless of any legal action involving Clear Channel, the city is ultimately responsible for making sure that Shoreline patrons are safe while attending concerts or any other functions there.

If that safety cannot be assured, it is time for the city to step in and either cancel this popular, but often dangerously out-of-control, event, or make sure that Clear Channel does the job.

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