INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Regional law enforcement is gearing for what figures to be a crowded New Year's Eve at Lake Tahoe, a normally busy holiday weekend that's sure to be bigger than ever with the addition of the inaugural SnowGlobe Music Festival on the South Shore.
The Nevada Highway Patrol plans to have an additional 18 troopers patrolling the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe on Friday, Saturday (New Year's Eve) and Sunday (New Year's Day), said Sgt. Rob Stepien, with 15 assigned specifically to help control the massive crowd that convenes on the South Shore along Highway 50 throughout the casino corridor to count down the end of the year.
Three additional troopers will be assigned to patrol Incline Village the same three days, Stepien said. Officers will focus on controlling traffic on highways 28 and 431, Stepien said, while also keeping an eye on the North Shore casino corridor. With big-name concerts such as Jackie Greene at the Crystal Bay Club and the fifth annual Black and White Ball at the Cal Neva, the Crystal Bay area will likely be pedestrian-heavy for New Year's Eve.
The Washoe County Sheriff's Office also is stepping up coverage. Capt. Darin Balaam said the department will have an additional transport van, an additional supervisor and four additional deputies to help patrol Incline Village on Saturday night into New Year's Day.
While officers aren't expecting major issues, they're prepared due the lack of snow in Lake Tahoe and the fact New Year's Eve is on a Saturday this year.
“With us not having snow, those types of conditions means more people are willing to stay on the roads; it's really enhancing our awareness,” Stepien said.
Besides those issues, law enforcement also will keep a close eye on the thousands of people expected to attend the inaugural SnowGlobe festival at Lake Tahoe Community College, off Al Tahoe Boulevard on the South Shore.
The three-day outdoor event (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) features some of the world's top bass-heavy, dubstep and electronic hip-hop acts, including Pretty Lights, Bassnectar and The Glitch Mob. With a three-day ticket costing $149.95, SnowGlobe follows a similar model as popular outdoor music festivals such as Outside Lands in San Francisco and Bonnaroo in Tennessee — music for multiple hours over multiple days.
Officials anticipate thousands of people from outside the region to attend, putting an onus on security and law enforcement, as the odds of more impaired drivers on the road — whether South or North Tahoe — will rise.
Stepien said NHP and regional law enforcement agencies have had two planning meetings the past month to prepare for SnowGlobe, along with the normal Highway 50-packed festivities in South Lake Tahoe.
A portion of NHP's additional troopers will operate roving DUI patrols, Stepien said. This means that while there are no plans for DUI checkpoints on the Nevada side of the lake, plenty of officers and patrol cars will be on the lookout specifically for drunk drivers — as well as those under the influence of drugs.
“We're hoping all the trouble-makers head down to the South Shore, and then after the bus ride back, our hope is they're pretty tired and just go to bed,” Balaam said.
Regional officials are urging locals and tourists to drink responsibly this weekend, and to plan ahead with designated drivers and taxis.
“We always plan ahead this time of year, and even though we don't have the snow this year, we do expect quite a few visitors and will have extra patrols,” said Capt. Jeff Ausnow, with the Tahoe branch of the Placer County Sheriff's Office in California. “The big thing is drunk driving and making sure we catch those drunk drivers before they get out there and hurt someone. The extra patrols help with that.”
And for those who are drinking and don't have plans to hop behind the wheel this weekend, that doesn't make them invincible to an arrest for being drunk in public, or for other reasons, Stepien said.
“It's always the person who goes overboard; they're the ones who stand out to law enforcement and are very obvious, and they're the ones who are going to get arrested,” he said.