CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg Police say they're expecting 100,000 people to be in Charlotte this week for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) tournament.
The department typically boosts police staffing for the annual tournament but this year CIAA coincides with memorial events for Rev. Billy Graham, whose funeral is Friday.
"Because of Rev Graham's funeral and CIAA, we canceled days off that day so that we have more than enough officers to handle," said Major Gerald Smith. "And on that day we have – there are 3 priorities and they're all labeled number one. That would be Rev Billy Graham's funeral, CIAA and the general calls for service that our citizens give."
All CMPD officers will be working on Friday.
"We were fortunate enough that these events do not cross paths environmentally or physically so we believe we are able to deal with the traffic and the event for Billy Graham's funeral and then switch and move some staff over back to the downtown area where that evening we will see an increase in crowds for the CIAA" Major Smith said.
The CIAA tournament began earlier this week. Crowds are expected to arrive on Thursday and stay through the weekend.
"We have staffed up appropriately for the CIAA tournament," Major Smith told reporters during CMPD's weekly press briefing. "We feel we are in a good place to deal with the crowd and provide safety, provide a secure environment for everyone and we also deal with traffic."
Police are hoping the new permitting process will make it easier for officers to know what's happening where during CIAA.
"Last year I was coming into work and saw several tents along Brevard Street and I called everyone in Special Events here at the police department, DOT, Special Events over at the city and none of us had an idea what that was whatsoever," Major Smith said. "It started with fire department to get approval that the tents were structurally sound then it moved on to the ABC."
Major Smith says the change in the process means when someone wants to set up a tent or any event, all departments will be notified at the same time.
Referring back to last year's CIAA, Smith said "I believe those tents went up later in the week. So for us at the police department, they called looking for off-duty resource officers to work those venues, help secure those venues. At that point in time it was so late in the game they had to scramble to find off-duty resources and it pushed a lot of the responsibility over to the on-duty officers to make sure those events are actually secure."
During CIAA week the last two years police have investigated shootings that didn't involve official CIAA events.
Major Smith says officers have been doing advance work to try to get a handle on any rivalries that could lead to trouble.
"Our people in our Intelligence Unit do a lot of work in the weeks and months leading up. Any entertainment that is brought in that we know about we – they do a great deal of work to see if there are any kind of beef going on between entertainers," Major Smith said. "We do the best that we can to make sure that the venues – and even their movements – even if they tell us about it that we can address those."
Police say one hurdle they face is an artist who comes to perform for one venue during the week will later be booked at another event, unbeknownst to officers.
The rapper thought to be the target of what police say was approximately 100 bullets fired during a drive-by shooting in 2017 on the Saturday of the tournament week is scheduled to be back in Charlotte this week to perform at an unsanctioned CIAA event.
Three men were charged in that shooting.
It's unclear if CMPD investigators have spoken with the rapper to see if the rivalry that led to last year's shooting is still an issue.