The Hartford Police Department is making preparations for an increased level of law enforcement for a concert at Xfinity Theatre Friday night to crack down on underage drinking, which has landed many concertgoers in the hospital, in court, or both, in recent weeks.
On July 21, the Xfinity parking lots were packed with people, many of whom were under 21 years old, for a Chance The Rapper concert. Police said there was a lot of heavy drinking, which resulted in 50 people being charged with underage drinking and 96 people being taken by ambulance to hospitals.
Many of those patients were suffering from severe intoxication and some were transported to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford.
Dr. John Brancato, the assistant director of the Emergency Department at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center said the youngest patient transported from that show to the medical center was 14 years old and another patient had be placed in the Intensive Care Unit.
“We had more serious ones who came in on stretchers covered with plastic drapes to keep the vomit off of them,” said Brancato.
Brancato said the hospital prepares for nights like that and even posts Xfinity’s concert schedule inside the Emergency Department before summer begins.
“We make extra sure that on evenings of potentially big concerts that may affect us, that there are no holes in the schedule; that we're adequately covered,” Brancato said.
Austin Alexander, 20, of Wethersfield, said he did not need medical care but he was among the dozens of young people who received a court summons that night.
“The officers just came up to us out of nowhere,” said Alexander.
“Straight up just told them what was in the bottle, because it wasn't just lemonade,” said Alexander, who said he admitted to police that he had vodka mixed in with his lemonade. A few days after the concert, Alexander appeared at Hartford Community Court, where he agreed to complete three days of community service and take an alcohol awareness class.
Hartford police have long been vigilant of underage drinking at Xfinity Theatre.
According to Hartford police, they made 191 underage drinking arrests or summons at Xfinity Theatre during 2015. In 2016, that number dropped to 48, according to police. Through the start of August 2017, there were 110 underage drinking charges.
The venue and the police are now preparing for what could be the next busy night with the band Florida Georgia Line set to play on Friday, Aug. 18.
American Medical Response (AMR) said 29 of its ambulances were used, some of which were called in from other communities, to transport patients from the Chance The Rapper concert to a dozen area hospitals.
AMR officials said paramedics, police or the patients themselves make the decision about whether a patient would need medical transport.
"In our over 21 years working in partnership with the Hartford police and fire departments and the Xfinity management team to keep concertgoers at this venue safe, we have never seen this level of transports needed,” Chuck Babson, AMR’s regional director, wrote in a statement.
Kyle Wright, 20, of Wethersfield, who was also charged with underage drinking at the recent concert, wonders if any level of enforcement will actually solve the problem.
“Kids are still going to drink. Kids are kids,” Wright said. “And it's just going to still happen.”
Seventy-five Hartford police officers were at Xfinity Theatre for the Chance The Rapper show. The costs are covered by the venue as well as a state grant.
Police warn concertgoers that even more officers will be there for the Florida Georgia Line concert on Friday. City officials said Xfinity Theatre will be paying for that additional law enforcement.
Representatives for Xfinity Theatre declined to comment about what action is being taken to reduce underage drinking and instead referred all inquiries to the corporate office of LiveNation, which is the parent company of Xfinity Theatre. LiveNation has yet to respond to those requests.