There is only a few short days (or long one for you impatient people) until the 42nd Annual Comic-Con International in San Diego is upon us! I know many of you out there are working hard at your final packing lists or maybe putting the final touches on a kick-ass costume eagerly anticipating what the home of Ron Burgandy will have instore for you.
But as each of us does our thing in preparation there is a literal squadron of law enforcement officers who are working hard at keeping an eye on every detail to ensure that we all have a fun and safe time during our stay in their fair city. They, and the CCI officials that they work in unison with, are the unsung heroes of the show maintaining the peace during the chaos that thousands of Fanboys & Girls can create to be first in line for when their favorite trademarked character or celebrity shows up to smile and wave at all of the pretty, flashing cameras.
I had an opportunity to converse with Lieutenant David Nisleit of the San Diego Police Department’s Special Events Division on just how he prepares for the massive undertaking that I imagine an event of this magnitude warrants, as well as some putting down some fears first time travelers to his city may have in regards to crime. Check out what he had to say below.
When Nerds Attack: David, how long have you been in charge of policing special events for the city of San Diego?
David Nisleit: I recently transferred to Special Events, although I have been involved in the planning of large scale events for the PD such as the Superbowl and July 4th celebrations at the Beach , which draws upwards of 1 million visitors.
WNA: Those seem like some pretty daunting events to stay on top of. How closely do you work with the organizers? Are you given any updates as to attendance predictions?
DN: My staff and I work extremely close with the organizers and on the larger events such as Comic Con often meet once a week. Yes we are given updates on attendance and other issues surrounding the event.
WNA: Over the past few years the Comic-Con has grown exponentially in both publicity and the number of individuals that arrive into town. Have you found your team has had to grow as well or have you remained at a constant level of officers available?
DN: Your right Comic Con has grown quite large. We have adjusted & increased the number of officers working the event. Also the organizer has increased the number of security officers working inside the venue. The area we have had to increase the most is dealing with the traffic congestion caused by all the people flooding into the convention center and surrounding Gaslamp area.
WNA: With this many people all gathered into one area what are the main concerns that you have and how do you go about ensuring things run smoothly?
DN: Obvious concerns are providing a safe environment for all to enjoy. Focus is on site security, traffic flow, pedestrian movement, unauthorized vending, etc.
WNA: Each year there are more and more young adults visiting your city for this convention, many traveling without adult supervision for the first time. Do you have any thing you can say to help somewhat relieve the concerns of loved ones?
DN: Luckily for us we have not seen any issues regarding Juveniles/young adults. The City of San Diego, especially the area near the Convention Center is an extremely safe environment. Tips would be to familiarize yourself with the local laws. Travel in groups, be aware of your surroundings. If person over 21, do not over indulge in alcoholic beverages and lastly enjoy your stay in San Diego.
WNA: On the topic of alcohol, your city has an amazing bar and club scene that is every much a part of the convention as the official floor itself. For those reading who may be unaware of local laws can you please go over the city’s policy regarding public drunkenness and open containers?
DN: Your right the Gaslamp area is full of great bars and restaurants, I say visit them all. Local laws visitors need to know. Consumption or possession of alcohol in public in the Gaslamp area is prohibited. If officers come across a citizen who is too intoxicated to care for themselves the citizen will be arrested and either transported to a Detox Center or jail.
WNA: I often hear that many people see sleeping overnight outside as a proper option while waiting on the infamous Hall H line. What are your thoughts and concerns on this?
DN: We have not had people sleep in line. My guess is because the event is always sold out and there is no day of event ticket sales. We do have people sleep in line at other venues throughout the city for product/movie releases.
WNA: Have you had to escort any of the celebrities to and/or from the airport?
DN: As a general practice the police department does not offer escorts to celebrities. Escorts of this nature are handled by a private security company.
WNA: What are some of the favorite costumes you have seen?
DN: All the costumes are great and interesting, but Spiderman comes to mind.
WNA: Do you have any hidden gem restaurants you can recommend?
DN: There are hundreds of great restaurants within walking distance of the Convention Center. I recommend trying several.