LAWRENCE, KS (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The Wakarusa festival, held annually in Kansas since 2004, has been a popular destination for Kansas music fans but this year, it also drew the attention of a different crowd.
Representatives from FBI, the DEA, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office were all on hand to participate in a field demonstration with equipment provided by a California from NS Microwave, a subsidiary of the defense contractor Allied Defense Group. The firm provided over 250,000 dollars worth of high tech surveillance gear which was used to extensively monitor the festival in an attempt to ferret out illegal activity. The equipment included hidden wireless cameras, periscope viewers, night vision image enhancers and a 21-foot command trailer housing one of the most sophisticated control platforms on the market, providing police in-depth coverage of over 85 percent of the festival grounds.
According to local press and police reports, over 140 drug arrests were made at the festival. While it is unclear how many of these arrests were made based on the high tech gear, law enforcement officials who participated in the operation were highly laudatory. In an article in Government Security News, the trade magazine where the surveillance was first revealed, Patrol Commander Lt. Doug Woods told GSN that "It was a big surprise, we got very good results."
Not everyone was as pleased with the results. Since the revelations, there has been an outpouring of protest from the local community and press, with many feeling that their privacy had been invaded. Festival promoter Brett Mosiman has apologized in a statement posted on the festival website. According to the statement, Mosiman had been notified that there would be an increased police presence at the event, but he had not been informed about the surveillance system. Mosiman noted: There is simply no justification for these types of tactics to be used on an otherwise courteous and peaceful crowd. These actions are not what Wakarusa is about. Wakarusa has always took pride in being a fan friendly event – we like to say, "a festival for music fans by music fans” and we mean it to our core."
Questions have also been raised about the motivations of the law enforcement agencies conducting the surveillance. In an editorial in the Kansan, Steve Lynn suggested that if the primary motivation of law enforcement authorities had been to ensure festival-goers safety and deter drug use, then keeping the presence of the cameras secret seems counterproductive. Instead, by keeping the cameras secret, local law enforcement reaped the benefit of asset forfeiture and fines. The city of Lawrence has not yet stated what they intend to do with the money. – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers.