50,000 revelers expected for New Year’s at Stateline
If your holiday plans don’t include toasting the New Year in the Douglas County sheriff’s substation, behave yourself in the Stateline casino core.
Sheriff Ron Pierini, a veteran of nearly 25 New Year’s Eve celebrations, said the emphasis will again be on safety while allowing revelers to have fun welcoming 2001.
“We do not want to be adversaries. We’re probably going to have 50,000 people and most of them are just there to have a good time. As long as we can work with the crowd to keep the temperament down, we have fewer problems, fewer arrests and less destruction of property,” Pierini said.
Pierini says he calls on his most seasoned officers to be in charge of six-member squads scattered throughout the casino core. Three hundred officers from Douglas County, Nevada Highway Patrol, Carson City Sheriff’s Office, Nevada State Prison, South Lake Tahoe Police Department, El Dorado Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol will be assigned to the area.
The sheriff has $10,000 budgeted annually for July 4 and New Year’s Eve.
“We have special training for those officers who haven’t participated. We know we could incite the problems. A statement goes out to all our employees about what kind of behavior we expect out of them,” Pierini said.
“Our officers understand there is a lot of tension out there with 50,000 to 60,000 people. A lot of the people are intoxicated, it’s a dangerous area. There is tension and the possibility of people fighting or otherwise putting themselves and others in danger.”
Pierini said crowd control has changed little throughout the years. All DCSO deputies will be on 12-hour shifts during the three-day weekend. Patrol increases about 9 p.m. when U.S. Highway 50 is closed in front of the casinos. The crowd usually breaks up by 2 or 3 a.m., but Pierini said officers continue to patrol the area.
“We used to have officers get there earlier, but that didn’t work very well. We don’t want our resources taxed by getting most of our officers there at 6 or 7 p.m. This seems to be working well for us. We have had a real positive formula for success for many years. I don’t think we ever really failed at it,” Pierini said.
In the early 1990s, deputies tried to keep U.S. Highway 50 open to motor vehicles, but Pierini said that plan was abandoned because trying to keep thousands of people off the highway was too difficult.
The age of the party crowd concerns Pierini because most of the arrests are people between the ages of 14 and 25.
“Getting arrested is not a very good way to celebrate New Year’s Eve,” Pierini said. “After you are picked up, it will be two to three hours before you can even be released. And, depending on the offense, the bail will be a couple hundred dollars.”
Pierini said one individual was arrested two years ago for battery on a police officer and was sentenced to six months in the Douglas County jail.
Offenders are transported by Nevada State Prison van to the Douglas County sheriff’s substation at Kahle Park and kept in the exercise area. People accused of felonies are taken to the jail in Minden.
In 1999, 68 adults and nine juveniles were arrested. Most of the offenses were disorderly conduct, but there also were drug and alcohol charges.
District Attorney Scott Doyle and a deputy DA are on the scene to process offenders. Tahoe Township Justice Steve McMorris is on call. This New Year’s Eve will be McMorris’ last as his retirement begins Jan. 1, 2001.
“We take this extremely seriously,” Pierini said. “We are very concerned about an event that may turn bad. Controlling the crowd is a high risk situation.”
Pierini said deputies are especially concerned about underage celebrants.
“It’s a young crowd. Kids come who are only 14, 15 and 16 years old. They have no business coming out. Curfew is midnight. Kids under 21 can’t go in the casinos. They have no other options but to stay out in the street. That’s why we get numbers as high as we do. If everybody stays until the ‘last hurrah,’ it clears out about 2 a.m., hopefully,” he said. “It’s one of those situations where you just have to ask parents, ‘Do you know where your kids are?'”
Planning begins in September with law enforcement agencies and the casinos.
“We have a very good dialogue going,” he said. “They need us as much as we need them.”
Every year, Pierini hopes for snow on New Year’s Eve, but so far, his prayers have gone unanswered.
“We talk about it every year – about what might happen if it was snowing, windy and miserable – but as of yet, it hasn’t happened,” he said. “The last couple of years, it has been fairly warm and mild.”
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