Sheriff’s department wants more riot gear for New Year’s |

Sheriff’s department wants more riot gear for New Year’s

Rick Chandler

It was the final item on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors Agenda on Tuesday; No. 29, to be exact. But the numbers kind of stood out and made one take notice.

Sheriff Department recommending emergency acquisition of equipment for New Year’s Eve.

Recommended action by the board was to authorize the purchase of nearly $37,000 worth of equipment for the department, including 120 new batons and 120 riot helmets. Approximately $15,000 was for the purchase of 80 weatherized jumpsuits.

Those numbers say it all. Law enforcement officials do not expect to be caught flat-footed when New Year’s Eve hits Stateline this year.

Welcome to the new millennium! Show’s over, nothing more to see here, move along please.

“We’re spending a lot of tax dollars but it’s well worth it,” said El Dorado County Sheriff Hal Barker. “We’re looking at the kinds of crowds we’ve had the past two years and things that have happened in other cities. We’re planning to have a large presence (at Stateline) for New Year’s, because we’re expecting four-fold the number of people.”

A quick glance on the Internet reveals that Tahoe has been designated as somewhat of an official year 2000 party destination, and that has law enforcement officials a little nervous, or at least on their guard. Last year’s festivities drew an estimated 40,000 revelers to the casino area, resulting in 300 arrests – 160 by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department and 140 by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. The latter total was triple the number of arrests recorded the previous New Year’s Eve.

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department plays a major support role at Stateline on New Year’s – which is really the county’s only big-time crowd control event. And last year’s jumbo crowd may have been a warmup for an even bigger party. With all the hyperbole surrounding the coming millennium, is it unrealistic to expect double the numbers?

“We’re expecting a very large crowd,” Barker said. “I won’t divulge any numbers, but law enforcement will have as large a presence as we can at Tahoe. There’s no way to get quick additional support up there, so we have to have the manpower already in place.”

Last year, an on-site booking station was set up in the parking garage at the Embassy Suites Hotel by the El Dorado County Jail and the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. A similar command post will be set up this year.

“The local people seem to know the rules,” Barker said. “When problems occur, it’s mostly from non-locals. One of our concerns is with 15- and 16-year-olds out getting drunk. A large percentage of problems occur due to underage drinking. We have zero tolerance for that.”

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