Police team up with promoters to fight the festival gangs

Organised criminals targeted as number of thefts soar at Glastonbury and other big musical events
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The Independent Online

It trumps even rain and mud when it comes to dampening a festivalgoer's spirits. Festival crime is the dark side of the UK's booming live music industry, blighting the weekends of thousands of revellers each year who find their unprotected tents are easy pickings for criminal gangs.

Now, for the first time, the country's major festival promoters are teaming up to crack down on the criminal gangs who prey on festivals from Glastonbury to Bestival. Soaring crime rates during the past 12 months have spurred different festival organisers and local police forces to unite to fight back in the first national crackdown on festival crimes.

One initiative will get its first major test this weekend at Glastonbury, which last year saw the number of recorded thefts from tents double to nearly 800. Melvin Benn, who runs Festival Republic, which promotes nine of the country's biggest live music events, said it was time to act. "We found that it was the same characters that were preying on every festival. It was the same people who were touting tickets, for example. But the problem was that there weren't enough conversations between the security teams of the different festivals to identify who they were in advance."

At Glastonbury the police will work with the on-site security teams as though they were police community support officers. In another first, music fans will be able to report any crimes that they witness to the police by text message via a new service provided by Orange.

In addition, the Association of Independent Festivals, which represents events from Bestival to Creamfields, has launched a similar campaign. Jim King, Loud Sound's festival director, which organised last weekend's Rock Ness event near Inverness, said getting the local police force to work more closely with the security teams on site had seen a "dramatic reduction in crime, down from 95 reported thefts the previous year to just five".

Mr King said the aim was to get the police to treat festival crime the same way that they treat football hooliganism, "formally sharing information between constabularies rather than on an ad hoc basis". He added: "Festival crime, even somewhere like Rock Ness, isn't a local problem but a travelling national problem that is visiting local festivals."