Undercover Police: The Obvious Dopes of Music Festivals

Being at a festival and looking for party favors (drugs) is incredibly tricky. Or so I’ve heard. Turning on that bloodhound sense of smell, sniffing out who’s holding a beer and who’s chugging water by the liter; observing who’s dancing quite hard and who seems to be sitting down in a trance with just as much devotion. It’s a skill… I’ve been told.

On the other hand, getting asked for drugs while you’re out getting lit with the fam is markedly less annoying than typing “getting lit with the fam”. A simple “sorry, man, I got nothing, ” and that’s all it takes to shoo away the asker.

It’s a normal occurrence at a festival. Until you realize the guy asking seems to stick out for some reason. You can’t put your finger on it. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s wearing clean leather shoes better suited for dinner than for Dim Mak.

He’s also staring into your eyes a bit too deeply as if measuring the dilation of your pupils. Then you remember the guy called them “rollies” when he asked, whatever the hell those are. Not unlike grandma trying to use your lingo and failing, the guy standing in front of you asking for illicit drugs does not belong here.

Such has been the situation for those of us who have encountered undercover police at festivals. The aim of course is to target dealers, but in some states, a person can be targeted just for being under the influence of drugs (not so in my dearly beloved home state of Florida).

Surprisingly, searching the internet will not help you figure out definitively which shows will have more undercover police (although it will remind you to use incognito mode on the work computer.)

The size of the festival does not necessarily parallel how much undercover police will be on site either, but in my research, I have noted that the location will portend to that figure.

Ultra Music Festival in Miami which houses 165,000 ravers only saw about 65 arrests in 2016. In stark comparison, California’s Nocturnal Wonderland which services about 60,000 reached 428 arrests, averaging about 142 per day.

In Las Vegas, Electric Daisy Carnival (with roughly 400,000 attendees) saw about 101 arrests. Meanwhile in California, police arrested 300 people at Hard Summer this year out of a total of 146,000 participants. See the pattern there, Cali?

Most of the arrests made in California are for public intoxication, but it seems asinine that this much effort goes towards enforcing this legislation. As my fellow festi-heads will know, using drugs at a festival is the norm. Even if you’re a straight edge individual, you understand and accept this is normal at a large gathering of people getting ready to shuffle poorly in public.

Hiring droves of undercover police to arrest people for doing drugs at shows is in the same line of thinking as scolding a horny teenager for having sex (and just as ineffective, if we’re being honest).

Safe practices should be taught, but one can’t expect drugs to disappear from the scene. It’s normal; it’s inevitable and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. (Or so I’ve been told.)