‘Business as usual’ for Summit County Sheriff’s Office during Sundance
While thousands of filmgoers are expected to descend on Park City for the Sundance Film Festival starting Thursday, it is likely going to be business as usual for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, according to Lt. Andrew Wright.
The film festival has grown beyond the Park City limits into surrounding Summit County over the years, with more film screenings being held in the Snyderville Basin. As a result, the Sheriff’s Office has progressively increased its law enforcement presence to help absorb some of the services the Park City Police Department can’t provide, particularly as it relates to traffic control.
The Metropolitan Redstone 8 Cinemas in the Kimball Junction and Temple Har Shalom along S.R. 224 host several Sundance screenings. Wright said additional resources will be provided for the venues in the county, as well as the awards ceremony and party held at the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District Fieldhouse in Kimball Junction on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Sometimes the organizers of the festival have requested the presence of law enforcement at any film screenings that are expected to be controversial. But, Wright said he has not been made aware of any such requests this year.
“For the most part, we operate as we normally do,” he said. “We will attempt to provide additional resources to Park City, but we have our own sites out in the county that we have to provide services for, as well as continue our regular patrol shifts. Sometimes that can be limited, especially right now when we are understaffed with vacancies.”
Five deputies, including a supervisor, regularly provide patrol throughout the entire county. A couple more deputies will likely be added throughout the film festival to help.
Wright anticipates that book-ins at the Summit County Jail will increase. He said most of the arrests involve people who are intoxicated, adding that “When you have an increase in population, you will have more issues and those typically have to do with alcohol or fights.”
“It stretches us pretty thin if there are other situations that occur outside of the impacts of Sundance,” Wright said.
With no major demonstrations in Park City anticipated this year, the Sheriff’s Office will be able to dedicate most of its resources to law enforcement in the county. The Respect Rally drew a crowd of roughly 2,500 people to City Park last year and the most notable event, the Women’s March on Main in 2017, attracted an estimated 9,000 people.
In 2016, an unexpected controversy emerged during the festival when two private helicopter companies shuttled festival-goers between Salt Lake City and a landing zone along Old Ranch Road, sparking several complaints from nearby residents. The helipad at the Sheriff’s Office was eyed as a potential landing site. The Summit County Council later passed an ordinance banning helicopter landings in the Basin.
Wright doesn’t anticipate anything similar happening this year.
“Over the last few years, it seems like Sundance has been fairly mellow,” Wright said. “I think that could be because we have gotten a better handle on the operations of Sundance and understanding what we need to provide as far as resources for venues as they have continued to expand out into the county.”
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.