Crime Scorecard (updates)

For an event with a peak attendance of 52,385, attended by eagle-eyed Law Enforcement Officers by the hundreds, Burners did incredibly well at keeping the peace, staying out of trouble, and obeying the law.

According to the Associated Press, this year’s scorecard was:

  • 22 Arrests
  • 230 Citations for drug and other violations
  • 441 verbal warnings for everything from speeding to washing their hands and dishes on the playa

Well done Burners – except for 22 of you –  and well done LEOs.

In comparison to previous years, there were more arrests but fewer citations. Here’s some recent statistics regarding arrests and citations at Burning Man 2010 and 2009.

2010- 293 citations; 8 arrests
2009- 287 citations; 9 arrests

The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2011, there were 4 arrests for battery from Pershing County police. The Bureau of Land Managment, according to this site says:

2011 – 42 citations; 3 arrests

For previous years (source: Amerika)

Let’s look at the time-line of Burning Man and take note of the “highlights.”

  • In 1996 we have our first fatality as a result of a motorcycle collision and three people are run over by a car while in their tent.
  • The next year is the first year of grid streets and the Sheriff’s department takes over the gate as the attendees have grown to 10,000.
  • In 2000 we have active law enforcement activity, surveillance and searches.
  • In 2001 there are five arrests.
  • In 2003 there are ten arrests and one fatality.
  • In 2004 there are 2 DUIs.
  • In 2006 there are 25 arrests.
  • And in 2007, a pyromaniac burns the 65 foot effigy ahead of time, is charged with arson, and is sentenced to 1-4 years in jail.
In the comments to this post, Burner Colin asked us to emphasize that drugs are both a health issue, and a money-maker for TPTB and their prison industrial complex. And Burner Josh made this point about hunting for pot smokers with dogs, while rapists walk free:
They are busy with dogs busting people for pot and when actual women are drugged, raped and beaten and I know of two, they do nothing and say there isn’t enough evidence and the two men who did this together are going to get away with it. Well they make money for pot busts and it cost money to prosecute and protect the public. Gee am I too cynical? I wish that were the case
One reason why more sexual assaults don’t get reported and prosecuted at Burning Man may be that the nearest rape kit is in Sparks. If you want to report a rape and get DNA evidence collected, you have to leave the event. I would love to hear that this is not true, so if you have any evidence or stories to the contrary please let us know. My information is there are only 3 facilities in the entire State of Nevada that can properly process a sexual assault and collect forensic evidence. At this point is a medical issue, Law Enforcement is not involved. There is a processing cost which ranges in Nevada from $250-$3500. Even if you can get the tests done and sufficient evidence collected for collection, there is another problem: a nationwide backlog of untested rape kits, to the tune of 400,000.
A recent Australian TV documentary on Burning Man described the event as a “rape-a-thon” – which I think is inaccurate and perhaps unfair. This is an important issue for our community, not just a Law Enforcement problem. It would be great if the Burning Man Project could tackle a real problem like this, it makes the event better, deals with the reality of a whole new population starting to show up there… and if we can improve the situation at Burning Man perhaps we can improve things in the Default world too.
[Update 9/12/12] LA Weekly story,  “Burning Man Arrests Are Mellow in 2012” – they report difficulty getting statistics out of Pershing County, like the Reno-Gazette Journal had. Maybe the County bosses are disappointed they didn’t get more?
[Update 9/11/12] KRNV news reports some further 2012 arrest statistics, from the Washoe Country Sheriffs’ Department:
Thirteen misdemeanor citations (in lieu of arrests) for possession of a controlled substance (marijuana/drug paraphernalia) were issued. Seven DUI arrests were made. Four drug arrests and four warrant arrests were also made.In the period between Aug. 22 and Sept. 6, Washoe County issued 472 traffic violations citations in the area of Gerlach and Empire.
So that’s 15 arrests, 13 citations from Washoe
Some anecdotes about police encounters at Burning Man this year from Musicians for Freedom.
[Update 9/9/12] The Reno Gazette-Journal has a story on two criminals who got sniffed out by a K9 unit after their RV was stopped, with a significant quantity and variety of drugs – 30 grams of meth, containers of GHB, coke, ecstasy, weed, mushrooms [I heard talk on the Playa about a bust of “gallons” of GHB, not sure if it was this one]. They both got their mugshots in the paper, and banned from Burning Man. The accused dealer claimed, of course, that it was all for “personal use”:

Authorities said he added that he brought enough drugs for personal use and to share with friends while attending the international festival in the Black Rock Desert. The digital scale officers found in his backpack, he said, was thrown in there without thought. The large quantity of small, plastic bags in the bag were to be used to transport the drugs he was sharing with friends, according to the complaint.

The Judge thought that the Prosecutor’s desire to not let them attend Burning Man was a bit extreme:

It wasn’t as surreal as Burning Man itself, but the courtroom banter was a bit unorthodox when two so-called “Burners” from San Francisco appeared in Reno federal court to answer drug charges.

Robert Louis Ruenzel II and Lindsey Ann Neverisky were looking at five years in prison or more after federal agents arrested them last week in an RV stocked with marijuana, cocaine, psychedelic mushrooms, and other narcotics at the annual counter culture festival in the desert 120 miles north of Reno.

They were allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, but there was a catch.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked that they not be allowed to attend this year’s Burning Man festival that concluded Sunday. To that, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Cobb called the prosecutor a “killjoy.”

That Judge sounds like a Burner!

26 comments on “Crime Scorecard (updates)

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  17. FYI: the citation above that people don’t die at Burning Man comes about because they medivac people to Reno and they die there. Those bodies are not counted as Burning Man fatalities and people should be aware that there are multiple deaths each year..

  18. I think it’s important to emphasize that drugs are a health issue, not a criminal one. People should not be arrested for abusing their health. Furthermore, we must take into consideration that our own government could be importing most dangerous drugs such as cocaine and heroin. I’m ranting, but the point is, does law enforcement genuinely care about our health or are these arrests just another means of extracting money from hapless citizens trying to have a good time?

    I think we all know the answer. The prison industrial complex is real.

  19. I think they were more aggressive this year, I saw 2 searches with 5 police cars and dogs while traveling from the gate to the camp. Then one more on the playa, they were going thru an art car while the occupants were seating down in cuffed.

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