At the November 12 La Mesa City Council meeting, police chief Ed Aceves spoke about the Anti-Defamation League counter-terrorism seminar that he attended in Israel last month. One councilmember referred to the seminar during the police chief 's report about security issues during the 2013 Oktoberfest.
Aceves said that for the third consecutive year, crowds of youths caused problems during the Oktoberfest sponsored by the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce and La Mesa Village Merchants Association. After sponsors met with city staffers, including Aceves and city manager David Witt, sponsors agreed to eliminate carnival rides from the 2013 Oktoberfest.
According to a report from Aceves and Witt, the only incidents in the main beer garden this year involved calls for medical aid.
Aceves said security issues arose because Oktoberfest is an open-air event; and the report said "social media most likely played a role" in drawing juveniles to La Mesa.
Most problems occurred in the area between the Spring Street Metropolitan Transit System platform and a building at the intersection of La Mesa Boulevard and Date Street. On the ground floor are commercial tenants, including Starbucks. On the four floors above are the La Mesa Village Plaza Condominiums.
Aceves said between 200 and 300 youths congregated there on October 4 and October 5. They gathered around a fountain near the platform and a parking lot south of the building.
According to the report, Starbucks staffers removed outdoor chairs and tables on October 4 to prevent loitering.
On October 5, law-enforcement officials identified "known gang members from rival schools outside La Mesa."
While police moved to break up a fight between two teenage girls, someone threw ice cream and hit a motorcycle officer's helmet, according to the report. The ice-cream thrower remained unknown, and police cited one fighter for battery.
A boy who jumped on cars in a lot at 4700 Spring Street was arrested for vandalism.
Many youths gathered across the street from the Allison Avenue fire station. Police broke up a fight there between two girls, a dispute one girl said was related to a Facebook posting.
Both nights, police announcements about the 10 p.m. curfew "dispersed" most of the youths.
Councilmembers called for tighter controls in the future, referring to a report statement: "A large fight, stabbing, or shooting in this area with the size of the crowd could have led to mass panic."
Aceves said police could do more to control crowds. But, he cautioned, "I don't think you want a line of ten officers in riot gear to control students."
Burl Hogins, a condominium association president, made suggestions that included "closing the event at dark" or "more oompah bands."