2015 Crime Scorecard: Arrests Increased 600% [Update]

Image: Simon Pearce | Flickr (Creative Commons)

Cops at Burning Man, 2012. Image: Simon Pearce | Flickr (Creative Commons)

New Sheriff Jerry Allen was reportedly going to crack down on crime at Burning Man this year. When the story hit the media, he quickly back-pedalled, saying “I have no intention of being heavy-handed” and there is no crackdown, I was misquoted .

Well, it sure looks like a crackdown to me, with the highest number of arrests ever reported at Burning Man – and a still unknown number of citations. The supposedly underfunded Pershing County Sheriff’s Office managed to arrest 41 people, about 6 times as many as last year – and about as many as the previous 5 years combined. They also issued more than 600 citations, another record.

From the New York Times:

Scores of law enforcement officers meted out more than 600 citations and arrested dozens of people — nearly all of them for possession of controlled substances, like the hallucinogenic drugs that can make frolicking in scanty costumes in the desert seem like a kaleidoscopic adventure.

In other words, the party may have ended, but for the local courts, lawyers and busted participants, the headache begins…More than 40 of the revelers, known as Burners, were arrested, according to the sheriff’s office of Pershing County, the rural pocket of northwest Nevada where the festival takes place. The citation fines range from $100 to $500, said Rudy Evenson, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that shares policing responsibilities for the event with the sheriff’s office. Misdeeds ranged from environmental ones, like improper dumping, to drug use and possession.

[Source: NYT]

Crimes this year included 25 counts of drug trafficking, and 1 each of kidnapping and failing to register as a sex offender. Significantly, there were no sexual assaults reported – a huge improvement on 2013, when there were 12 people taken to jail for that crime.

For the first time we get some 2014 numbers too. The 2015 and 2014 data here has mostly come from the Reno Gazette Journal, quoting emails from the Sheriff. If anyone else has any more information, please share.

2015 Arrest Statistics

from Pershing County Sheriff’s Office

Population Size (estimated):

70,000 paid participants

9,000 workers

Total Population: 79,000

Total Cops: 192 – (150 BLM; 34 PCSO; 8 Washoe)

Total Arrests: 41

 

 

  • Trafficking of a controlled substance: 19
  • Possession of a controlled substance for sales: 6
  • Trespassing: 3
  • Warrant for failure to appear: 3
  • Possession of a prescription medication without a script: 2
  • Battery: 2
  • Unregistered sex offender: 1
  • Driving under the influence with accident: 1
  • Assault with a deadly weapon: 1
  • Battery on a public officer: 1
  • Kidnap: 1
  • Grand larceny: 1

Total Incidents: Unknown

Total Citations: 600+


2015 Traffic citations

(from Highway Patrol, Northern Nevada; partial information, as at 2/9/15):

Number of Stops:  245

Traffic Citations:  119

Warnings:  111

Crashes:  12

Fatal Crashes:  0

Speed Citations:  62

Seat Belt Violations:  2

DUI Arrests:  7

Drug Arrests:  0

Commercial Vehicle Inspections:  21


 

2014 Arrest Statistics

(from all law enforcement, including BLM)

Population Size (Peak, 8/29/14):

65,922 paid participants

9,312 workers

Total Population: 75,234

Total Cops: 185 (150 BLM; 27 PCSO; 8 Washoe)

Total Arrests: 7

  • 1 sexual assault
  • 4 drugs
  • 1 domestic violence
  • 2 trespassing

[note: this adds to 8. Earlier the RGJ reported 8 arrests for 2014, now they are saying 7; perhaps charges were dropped, or perhaps 1 person was booked for multiple crimes. This case might also provide an explanation]

Total Citations: 392

Total Incidents: 1,902

  • 334 public assists
  • 860 traffic stops
  • 520 verbal warnings
  • 230 written warnings
  • 392 citations.
    • 104 were issued on the road entrance,
    • 205 were issued for possession of a controlled substance (
      • 117 marijuana,
      • 30 ecstasy,
      • 18 cocaine,
      • 40 other
      • 52 multiple drug types
      • 50 motor vehicle violations.

[Source: RGJ]


While we’re at it, might as well thrown in some medical statistics. We’re hoping to get those for 2015, so we can see how CrowdRX fared compared to their predecessor Humboldt General.

2014 Medical Statistics

Total Patients treated: 2880 (according to BLM Director); 6100 (according to Afterburn report)

Drug overdoses: 71

Trauma incidents: 67

Alcohol Poisoning: 30

Death: 1

[Source: John Ruhs, BLM State Director, Nevada]


 

Here is the arrest data from previous years, as best as I have been able to assemble. They certainly don’t make it easy for Burners to find this stuff.

Screenshot 2015-09-12 02.47.57

[Sources various 2001-2012, NYT / RGJ 2014, BLM official numbers 2010-2013,  KRNV4 news 2013]

There have been some procedural changes, with the Sheriffs and BLM being integrated for a few years, and this year de-integrated again. So this may not be a straight “apples to apples” comparison, we could be missing some Pershing and Washoe County arrests as most of these figures have come from the BLM. According to local news reports, in 2013 15 people were taken to jail in Pershing County. Maybe some of these were later released without charge, or maybe this is in addition to the 6 arrests reported by the BLM. The anecdotal evidence we have is that arrests were way down under former Sheriff Machado; it is quite clear that his replacement has gone in the other direction.

The full story on 2015 arrests by Burning Man beat reporter Jenny Kane at the Reno Gazette-Journal has some other interesting information:

Whether participants felt that they were being watched more closely this year was up for debate. Some felt the law enforcement presence more than others.

It’s noticeably more strict this year. They’re literally sitting out, and if you have any minor infractions, they’re nailing you,” Jim Pehkonen, of Salt Lake City, said during Burning Man. “When they pull people over, often if they do consent to a search, they take everything out and they put it on the side and if they find anything, they arrest you.”

During entry to Burning Man, anyone who did not consent to a search if stopped by law enforcement was denied entry to the event.

“In past years, they’ve used more discretion. This year, they’re wreaking havoc,” said Pehkonen…

BLM agents, who also serve as law enforcement at the event, made no arrests at the event this year.

That is very probably because Pershing County Sheriff’s Office process the arrests, and take the perps to their jail.

BMOrg pay for the prosecutions, so it looks like Sheriff Allen will be sending them a bigger invoice this year:

Pershing County receives funding from Burning Man to prosecute cases that result from criminal activity by participants at Burning Man, although Allen said in previous statements that the county needs more funding from the San Francisco-based nonprofit for the county to take on the “heartache” that comes with Burning Man.

[Source: RGJ]


[Update 9/12/15 2:45am PST]

Any Burners who did get busted might want to contact Lawyers For Burners.

Results from 2014

 Every single participant who contacted Lawyers for Burners after receiving a drug citation at the 2013 Event was offered the chance to plea bargain the citation to a non-drug offense. The BLM offered to dismiss the drug possession citation if the participant agreed to plead guilty to a motor vehicle infraction. The BLM routinely reduced the $500 fine as well. Attorneys affiliated with Lawyers for Burners worked directly with the United States Attorney’s Office (the part of government that prosecutes citations written by the BLM) to accomplish these results. Lawyers for Burners acknowledges and appreciates the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Reno, Nevada for its management of the Burning Man citation calendars every year.

[Source: Lawyers For Burners]

The New York Times quotes John Routsis from Lawyers for Burners, and tells a horror story about a Mom who got busted with DMT, shrooms and a kid in the car, and may now be facing a life sentence:

“You have these individuals go there to go to this experience, and they will sometimes partake in illegal narcotics, hallucinogens, as part of their rite of passage,” Mr. Routsis said. “Now there is a great consequence to that action, where there wasn’t beforehand.”

Lately, the arrests have been handled locally rather than by the federal government, which is not good news for the Burners: In Nevada, there are lengthy mandatory jail sentences for even small amounts of drugs. Even so, evidence from past years suggests that judges seldom throw the book at the celebrators.

One of Mr. Routsis’ clients is … 35, the owner of a cupcake shop… She was arrested at the start of the festival after a sniffing dog set off an alert on her car at a traffic stop in Washoe County, just to the west of the event site. [She] faces several charges, including drug possession and Level 3 drug trafficking, a felony that carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison. One charge is related to her having her 7-year-old in the car with the drugs, which the sheriff’s office described as “significant quantities” of psilocybin — found in magic mushrooms — and dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, another psychedelic.

[She] expressed dismay at the charges. “My family, friends and I go to Burning Man to awaken our consciousness and to become better human beings,” she said in an emailed statement.

Some infractions may be the result of culture clashes. In a 2012 case described on the Internet forum Reddit, a Burner said he had been arrested on child-endangerment charges by deputies who took issue with his permitting his 12-year-old son to be naked.

“I spend the night in Lovelock,” the parent said, referring to a Pershing Country prison, “and paid $885 to a bail bondsman on a $5,600 bond.”

[Source: NYT]

Traffic Man 2015: Entry Pain For Thousands

Traffic this year appears to have been among the worst ever.

From Voices of Burning Man:

We are experiencing significant traffic delays due to slow vehicles on Highway 447. Estimated delays are up to 8 hours to reach Gerlach from Wadsworth. We recommend participants wait in Reno or elsewhere for several hours until the congestion is cleared.

For your own safety, if you’re stopped on Highway 447, please remain in your vehicle. And do not park on the shoulder of Interstate 80 — find an off ramp and park on a side road.

We will update this message with new information as soon as it becomes available.

You can also hear updates by tuning in to BMIR or by following @bmantraffic on Twitter.

[UPDATE: 8/31/15 2:00am]

At this time, the drive from Wadsworth to Gerlach is taking about 5 1/2 hours. Stay safe out there!

 

Once you get to Gerlach, it takes hours to get to the 8-mile entrance, and hours more to get to the Gate. The good news is right now, it’s “only” about 3 hours from Wadsworth all the way to the gate.

The “pulsing” system was used for cars on the way in, leaving large areas of gap with no cars in them, while many stayed still for up to 2 hours before moving forward as little as 500 feet.

Last night, there was an 8 hour plus wait even to get to Gerlach.

Even in the 140-character Twitter format, BMOrg couldn’t just report the facts about this situation. They had to put a spin on, one that absolved themselves of any responsibility by placing the blame on others. In this case, vehicles moving too slowly were responsible. I mean, really?

BMIR, on the other hand, was saying that the delay was due to people getting out of their cars. Sure, just sit still in your car for 12 hours while BMOrg sorts the gate out.

Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.47.25

Burners were not invited to resume their journey until 5:30am Monday

Burner Jerrod put together this graph:

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

Here are some of the statistics from 2014, which link arrival and departure time to hours of travel:

2014 arrival times

2014 departure times[Source: Reddit, compiled from @bmantraffic hourly updates]

For many Burners last year, once they got to the Gate they had a long wait ahead of them, because Burning Man was unexpectedly closed due to rain.

Another Burner compiled this list of Exodus times from 2011-2013, based on information from Reddit.

2011 to 2013 exodus times

[Source: Reddit]

The RGJ brings us some highway safety information from the Nevada Highway Patrol:

Burners Leave Hazardous Objects on Roadways

Every year, several drivers crash because of unusual objects that fall on the roadways, NHP Trooper Duncan Dauber said Sunday.

“(The Interstate 80) will be a real mess during the week,” Dauber said. “Drivers should watch out for very odd things from tricycles to couches to mattress and bags of trash.

“Almost every year there are accidents.”

Dauber said Burners tend to drive vehicles that are oversized and carrying large objects that aren’t tied down properly.

“When they pack everything they pack it nice and neat, but when they leave they accumulate trash and maybe don’t have extra cables to strap things down,” Dauber said.

“When they’re leaving, they’re extremely exhausted, and they’ve been out on the sun for a week, and it’s time for them to leave, so they don’t pack everything as tight as they should.”

Dauber said I-80 westbound between Fernley and Reno usually is a hot spot for fallen objects. The Nevada Highway Patrol often receive multiple calls every year of debris falling off vehicles, he said.

“Even though most people are already at Burning Man, some people still continue to flow through there,” Dauber said.

[Source: RGJ]

Burners tried to make the most of it all and keep morale high. The picture being painted on social media was a little more grim than from BMOrg’s description.

https://twitter.com/annekejong/status/638244160114311168/photo/1

Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.16.32Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.35.46Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.09.05Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.15.07Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.10.33Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.11.34Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.13.02Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.41.46Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.34.50Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.14.01

big backpack

In other news, Burners got some celebrity shout-outs on Social Media. We doubt any of them are stranded in traffic.

View this post on Instagram

Here Goes #BurningMan

A post shared by Susan Sarandon (@susansarandon) on

 

It’s Hip To Be Square

i40910_fus_amsf_grover_partner_20in_20crime_16x9_1600

Another interview from Grover Norquist, in what looks like a summertime ski lift. The Grove is now a “Burning Man aficionado” after attending once by private plane and staying up til 2:30am on a couple of occasions. He said he did not witness a single intoxicated person at Burning Man, even though he delivered a lecture on Psychedelics and hung out mostly at the Absinthe bar. His outrageous costume was a Moroccan man-dress and a Russian military uniform he got from his spooky activities in Afghanistan.

Is this a case of the right wing trying to appropriate left wing culture, to try to be cool? These guys sure think so:

grover at bm

Fusion produced this video showing Grover in action gifting Cuban cigars, lip balm and Nutella on the Playa. He’s so cool that he’s drinking the Kool Aid, and wants to come back with his political dream team.

grover dreamteam

I’ve also just found this gem of an article with Grover, one of several media interviews that both he and political figure Denis Kucinich gave on-Playa at last year’s Burning Man.

From New York magazine:

01-norquist-burning-man.w529.h352.2x

Norquist strolls around Black Rock City in 2014. Image: NY Mag

It’s a hell-hot Friday afternoon, and conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and I are walking down a dusty footpath at Burning Man, the annual New Age festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. As we stroll past rows of parked RVs on Gold Street, we pass a large tent that advertises “Free Taint Washes.” A man approaches us from inside, carrying a jug of water with a misting attachment.

“Would you like a spray?” the man asks.

“Not today,” Norquist says.

The man smiles. “Well, would you like a taint wash?”

Norquist has been at Burning Man for less than a day, but he’s already learning lots of new things — including the word taint, which, after a moment of confusion, he asks me to define. (Hmm, how to put this to the godfather of modern American conservatism?) Sheepishly, I inform him that the perineum it’s the colloquial term for the patch of skin between the genitals and the anus that people take well good care of it know a days using anal bleach creamanal bleach cream, and other products. People call it the taint, I say, because it taint one part and it taint the other, either.

“Okay, I did not know that,” Norquist says. “Is that a recent slang?”

We continue down the path, past a “shaman dome” and a 22-foot-tall sculpture of a penis entitled “The Divine Masculine.” Nearby, a topless woman rides by on a fur-festooned bicycle. The oontz-oontz of house music reverberates in all directions. It’s a much different scene than you’d find at the offices of Americans for Tax Reform, the influential right-wing organization Norquist leads, but he seems charmed rather than frightened.

“If you had 500 people get together and [they did] something like this, that would be impressive,” he says, surveying the blocks full of elaborately decorated theme camps. “But seventy thousand?”

Image: Tremr

Image: Tremr

Further down the path, while Norquist is making a point about the evils of labor unions, a man in a fedora runs over to meet us … (He is possibly very stoned.) “Gentlemen, I’m coming here to get some news on the report,” he says. After an awkward silence, the man whirls away and shouts, “Now watch me get run over — it’s going to be modern art!”

“Did you know that guy?” Norquist asks…

Grover lets the hidden agenda slip:

In the long run, Norquist thinks that the high-profile regulatory struggles of tech companies like Uber and Airbnb could help the GOP attract young Silicon Valley voters if it positions itself as the innovation-friendly party.

But really, he’s just there to party party. Sure he is.

Image: Fusion

Image: Fusion

…enough about politics — Norquist is here to have his mind blown…he periodically stops to admire the roadside attractions: a golf cart decorated to look like a gumball machine; an antique car with a “Nixon/Agnew” bumper sticker; a geodesic dome. We pass HeeBeeGeeBee Healers, a camp that puts on daily spiritual healing workshops where attendees are asked to chant like monkeys.

“Is that the gong one?” Norquist says with a laugh. “I saw an advertisement for a place where you lie down and they hit gongs near you and they can cure your appendicitis or something.”

Norquist is still getting used to Burning Man’s quirky traditions — for starters, he doesn’t yet have a “playa name,” the nickname given to first-time Burners as a rite of passage. (“I went through eight years of the Bush administration without a nickname,” he says. “I think Grover is sufficiently unique.”)

[Source: New York]

Read the full interview here.

There’s big elections coming up in 2016, and Burners are an attractive little bubble of voters for politicians to reach. Maybe if we’re lucky this year Hillary, Jeb, and Trump will all bring their planes and give interviews too, with paparazzi standing by to record the evidence of them actually Gifting and Participating and being all Radical. Of course, we’d have to turn the music down.

http://twitter.com/GroverNorquist/status/505893399824588801/photo/1

http://twitter.com/GroverNorquist/status/505893009158705152/photo/1