Authorities prepare for South Lake Tahoe’s annual New Year’s revelry
Last New Year’s Eve a man clung to a Stateline traffic light in his boxers.
The light, weighing more than a 100 pounds, crashed to the ground and almost hit two police officers the way. The man in boxers landed safely in the arms of people below him and ran from the scene.
Undoubtedly the celebration of 2001 will make people want to get drunk and again do illegal things to public property, but, as always, they will be monitored by a lot of police officers.
Three hundred law enforcement officers from seven agencies in the area will be on foot and horse patrol to make sure the street party is as safe as possible.
“Last year was Y2K,” said South Lake Tahoe Police Cmdr. Rich McGuffin. “We’re not expecting the crowd to be quite as big as last year. We’ve cut back our numbers quite a bit this year.”
Police expect between 40- to 50,000-people at Stateline this New Year’s. To accommodate the crowd, U.S. Highway 50 will be closed from Park Avenue to Lake Parkway from approximately 9 p.m. to sometime after 1 a.m.
“We set a mood. We let them party a couple hours and ask them to leave and they do,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Lance Modispacher, a man who has worked Stateline at New Year’s for more than 20 years. “When we first started having an influx of people, 1 or 2,000, we weren’t about to let that happen. We got in quite a confrontation. Pretty soon it was the cops against the revelers. Rather than threaten them. We said ‘OK, we want you to come to Lake Tahoe, but when we ask you to leave we need you to leave.’ “
Last year law enforcement agencies made more than 80 arrests at Stateline. Ninety percent of them were for disorderly conduct, Modispacher said.
“You can’t ticket everybody,” he said. “It’s certainly a violation if you bring in bottles or cans. Those containers later become missiles. You get a bottle that holds half-a-gallon of champagne and what some of these evil minded individuals do is sling it into the crowd … If you want to throw an empty plastic cup that’s your business.”
To keep illegal activity to a minimum there will be 16 squads of officers, each with at least five people, squeezing their way through the crowd looking for trouble makers.
And after last year’s Tarzan exhibition, officers also plan to keep an eye on utility poles in the Stateline area. “It’s dangerous for people to climb poles,” McGuffin said. “A young man was electrocuted in Las Vegas last New Year’s climbing a pole.”
Extra security will also be provided by businesses in the area like Heavenly. John Wagnon, vice president of marketing at the ski resort, said windows of the Discovery Gallery, Heavenly’s store at Stateline and U.S. Highway 50, will be boarded up and extra security will be in place around the new gondola.
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe is also expected to have more security on staff. “On New Year’s we’ll put all of our 50 officers on 12-hour-shifts and bring in 25 officers from an outside security agency,” said Robert Kortan, head security for the casino. “Of course we have cameras up but most people are very nice. I think last year we only had one arrest.”
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