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Walz, law enforcement, say they expect safe Minnesota State Fair

Ahead of the “Great Minnesota Get Together,” the State Fair Police Department recruited 200 officers from more than 50 agencies to patrol the fairgrounds, and they’ll have backup from the Minnesota

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A Minnesota State Fair Police car on patrol on the grounds of the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.
John Autey / Pioneer Press
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FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — With the Minnesota State Fair set to open 7 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, Gov. Tim Walz, public safety leaders and the fair's general manager gathered Tuesday to assure visitors law enforcement will have a handle on the gathering that could attract numbers approaching 2 million.

Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington told reporters that his department had conducted a risk assessment for the event as requested by the organizers and found the threat of crime to be “extremely low.” With such a large event taking place over 12 days, however, Harrington said it’s up to law enforcement to plan for the unexpected.

“Our job is to think about the worst case scenarios, and then to try and preplan and preposition assets so that those worst case scenarios never happen,” he told reporters Tuesday outside the state fairgrounds. “We want the state fair to go and come without there ever being a story other than about the debate between Pronto Pups and corn dogs.”

Ahead of the “Great Minnesota Get Together,” the State Fair Police Department recruited 200 officers from more than 50 agencies to patrol the fairgrounds, and they’ll have backup from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Harrington said. The fair will also continue to use metal detectors at the entrances, said fair police Chief Ron Knafla, something that started in 2021. The fair also uses security cameras on its grounds, which cover 322 acres directly north of St. Paul.

The State Fair Police Department went on hiatus last year and instead the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office handled security for the event. Last year’s state fair attracted the lowest attendance in 44 years — just 1.3 million. The fair attracted more than 2.1 million in 2019.

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The final night of the last two state fairs, Labor Day, was marred by security trouble just outside the fairgrounds. Last year, a large crowd attempted to storm the eastern gate along Snelling Avenue during the final hours of the fair as fights broke out within the grounds. Police had to shut down the gate and were able to repel the crowd. In the same area in 2019, three men were shot and a woman was hit by a car shortly after the fair’s closing, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Public safety is a central issue in Minnesota’s 2022 gubernatorial election as the state and the rest of the U.S, experience an uptick in crime that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Violent crime increased by 21% last year, continuing a trend that started in 2020.

Walz gathered reporters to highlight state fair safety Tuesday following a news conference earlier in August where the governor said he would continue dedicating state law enforcement resources to combatting dangerous criminal activity in the Twin Cities.

Republican challenger Scott Jensen has criticized Walz, a Democrat, for his record on crime.

MORE FROM ALEX DEROSIER:
“The golden opportunity that we have to make Minnesota an even better and fairer and more inclusive and more prosperous state is there,” said DFL Gov. Tim Walz. Legislative Republicans said the

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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