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August 27, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Heading to Fremont tonight? Have your ID handy

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Las Vegas Metro Police cars line East Fremont street during First Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.

Fremont Street Enforcement - July 2013

Officer I. Williams cards Christopher Stovner, 22, in the Fremont East District on Friday, July 5, 2013. Launch slideshow »

In the past few months, police have tried several tactics — some that made people feel Fremont Street was turning into a "police state" — to curb underage drinking.

And while sources had said in June that a fence would not be part of First Friday celebrations, a fence will be erected at the Fremont Street Experience and barricades will return to East Fremont Street tonight, allowing security to check identification.

Here’s how tonight’s ID check at the Experience will happen:

The Experience will be fenced off, just as it is on New Year’s Eve. Metro Police Capt. Shawn Andersen said the fencing will have six to seven entrances.

At each entrance, contracted security will check identification to make sure anyone who wants to enter is 21 or older. Those who are of age will be provided with a wristband so they can leave and re-enter without going through another ID check.

Casino security will also provide another layer of ID checks, allowing only those over 21 to enter. Liquor stores are already supposed to be checking ID.

If someone under 21 is staying at a casino property, with a parent or by themselves, they will be subjected to the same ID checks at casino bars and entrances.

Fencing will start being installed at 4 p.m and will be finished by 8 p.m. Security will begin checking identification at 9 p.m.

“There are people who won’t be happy, but we’re trying to do what what we can to create a fun, safe environment for folks,” Andersen said.

Something similar will happen in the single block of east Fremont Street, from Las Vegas Boulevard to 6th Street, which has seen hundreds of people congregate and drink outside, some from stashes of beer. Similar to last month, cattle barricades will be set up and police will check the ID of anyone entering the area.

Andersen said Metro learned from last month’s experience on east Fremont Street that not as many police will be needed, so the more visible signs of police — they had about 10 cars parked in on the street in that one block last month — will be toned down.

Andersen also isn’t sure if this is the kind of security that will be needed every first Friday of the month.

“I’ll do this and see what happens, and then on Tuesday we’ll start planning for next month,” he said.

The first Friday of the month is particularly popular because the First Friday art walk a mile southwest of Fremont Street draws some 25,000 people that night. When that event ends around 11 p.m., the crowd on Fremont Street begins to grow.

Police and business owners have been worried about the open drinking on the street, some fights and the potential for more problems due to the crowds and drinking.

While last month was fairly quiet on east Fremont Street — because of the barricades and strong police presence — the Fremont Street Experience, which is two blocks west, became more chaotic. Police arrested nearly 80 people there that night for a variety of offenses.

Coinciding with First Friday, the 13th Annual Las Vegas BikeFest is also expected to draw even more people downtown. Many revelers are expected to party at Hogs & Heifers, a bar just north of the Fremont Street Experience on 3rd Street.

Jeff Victor, Experience general manager and president, said main entrances will be set up at 4th Street, Main Street and 3rd Street.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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