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Tighter Fremont Street security, new curfew frustrates many

A large crowd waits in line before crossing barricades to enter the Fremont Street Experience on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. (ANA LEY/THE LAS VEGAS SUN)
A large crowd waits in line before crossing barricades to enter the Fremont Street Experience on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. (ANA LEY/THE LAS VEGAS SUN)
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Updated: 10/05/2013 10:23 am
By Ana Ley
THE LAS VEGAS SUN

Shivering at a downtown bus stop, Desteny Camacho kept her back to the street and concealed her face with her long, dark hair to avoid being spotted by police.

Camacho, 16, had hoped to see the Fremont Street Experience on the first Friday of the month because she knew the place would be bustling with revelers. She didn't know that starting that night, a weekend curfew bans everyone under 18 from the area if they are not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

"This curfew is killing us," Camacho said, sounding defeated. "It sucks."

Camacho and three of her young friends had hopped on a bus that night and made the trek to Fremont, scurrying back to their bus stop when they realized other youngsters were being handed $300 fines for traversing the area unsupervised.

The curfew came as a puzzling surprise to some adults, too. Adding to the confusion, the curfew overlapped with Las Vegas BikeFest, which was blocked off by barricades on Fremont and restricted to adults over the legal drinking age who were given free wristbands to enter.

Some revelers complained about the barricades and carding stations, calling them a nuisance. Many rolled their eyes and shook their heads as guards waved metal detector wands and inspected bags and purses.

"It's ruining Fremont Street," Las Vegan Marion Pulse said after being carded at a barricade and chatting with a group of officers. "It's not cool. Nobody likes this (expletive)."

Others said they were glad youngsters were being kept off Fremont Street.

"I don't see anything for kids to do here except get in trouble," said Danielle Garcia, 23. "I can't judge, though — I did my fair share when I was younger."

A mile from Fremont Street, the First Friday art walk went unaffected by the new ordinance, though many there trickled to and from Fremont. Some believe the monthly event draws more to East Fremont, where redevelopment incentives have helped bring bars and restaurants into the area.

For months, Metro Police have tried different measures to get a handle on the hordes of visitors that descend on Fremont the first Friday night of each month.

Lt. D. Gordon attributed the crowd control measures to the overlapping events, noting that the barricades, guards and extra cops would be gone by Saturday night.

First Friday organizers emphasized that the art walk is not tied to Fremont Street, which is sometimes associated with large, unruly crowds and underage drinking.

"We can only control what happens within the footprint of the First Friday event," spokeswoman Alissa Kelly wrote in a prepared statement. "The event does not take place on Fremont Street."
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