Police are getting ready for a swarm of tens of thousands of college students and other horse race aficionados at the Carolina Cup in Camden on Saturday.
The event historically draws anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 people, Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd said.
“Right now, we’re preparing for 60,000 this year,” Floyd said.
Officers from several local and state agencies will assist the Camden cops. About 60 officers will handle security work on the race property, while 170 more from state agencies – including the South Carolina Highway Patrol and the State Law Enforcement Division – will handle alcohol enforcement.
Absent from the event will be Kershaw County deputies. The sheriff’s department worked 2011 and 2012, until organizers decided to contract with other agencies, Sheriff Jim Matthews said.
The sheriff identified the main problem point for law enforcement as College Park, an area known for students – many coming in from out of state – who consume a lot of alcohol.
“I realized quickly that College Park was a venue that existing law enforcement in Kershaw County and our existing detention facility was in no way prepared to deal with,” Matthews said.
Though not working the event, the sheriff’s department will be stepping up its patrols to stop driving under the influence around the event, Matthews said.
The current arrangement is better for public safety because it frees deputies to be on the lookout for drunk drivers, Floyd said. In previous years, both departments would only have skeleton crews on the road.
In addition to the law enforcement working the race, Floyd said about 65 additional support personnel will provide fire, medical, jail booking and other services on site.
An average of 180 to 200 people end up with criminal charges at the event, Floyd said. About 30 of those end up in jail.
Matthews raised concerns about the sheer number of people attending, saying there aren’t enough ambulances available or enough space in the Kershaw County Detention Center. College students end up confined in a facility where some detainees have been charged with dangerous crimes, he said.
Floyd said the county ambulances are backed up by some from a private company, Lifeline.
Folks arrested during the event tend to get out of jail fairly quickly, according to jail administrator Peggy Spivey.
“We have a set schedule and the judges come in that afternoon, and pretty much all of them get out,” she said. “I can’t say they all do.”