UCPD Sees Spike in Crime as Phish 'Phans' Come to Greek Theatre

Photo: Source: UCPD crime logs.
Elaine Wang/Illustration
Source: UCPD crime logs.

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The legions of "phans" who follow the legendary jam band Phish while it tours the country came to UC Berkeley this weekend, filling to capacity the 8,500 seats of Hearst Greek Theatre three nights in a row and leaving behind a handful of drug arrests, citations and one instance of battery against a police officer, records show.

UCPD crime logs show that between Thursday evening and early Sunday morning, six people were arrested for drug possession - including marijuana, ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine and psylocibin - more than 20 people were given field interviews for possible alcohol violations, eight people were excluded from campus for a week for violating university rules, two unauthorized fires were set and one unauthorized camp site was found.

Incidents of these kinds are standard with most concerts at the Greek Theatre, said Lt. Alex Yao, but when Phish "phans" come, they bring more vigor and volume.

"This type of activity is not the normal level, but for a Phish concert the general fan base is also slightly different then others," he said.

But according to Ellis Godard, executive director of The Mockingbird Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the band's fans, the number of arrests over the weekend is relatively low compared with other venues the band visits.

According to a report by the Associated Press, 194 people were arrested and more than $1.2 million in drugs were confiscated at a 2009 Phish concert in Virginia.

Godard, an associate professor of sociology at Cal State Northridge who said he has seen 110 Phish shows since 1990, said some local police agencies often plan or publicize efforts to arrest "phans" at some venues, adding that some on the East Coast are known for their "heightened police presence."

"Variations in arrest rates and frequencies at Phish shows, like anywhere, are better explained by the social processes generating those arrests than by the behavior they address," he said in an e-mail. "(In Berkeley) ... there seemed to be a greater emphasis on risk reduction than criminal apprehension."

Godard said despite some arrests, "phans" should not be stereotyped.

"Phish fans have done extensive good for communities, from environmental cleanup to fundraising for music education, that arguably offsets the social ill of a half dozen intoxicated fans," he said in an e-mail.


Javier Panzar is the news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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