Sheriff Spat Escalates: “Misinformation”

The Federal tensions with the Bureau of Indian Affairs have been causing headaches for Burners, but there could be even more to come. It looks like nothing is being done to appease the Pershing County community. Quite the opposite, with Burning Man’s official statement accusing Sheriff Jerry Allen of disseminating misinformation: in other words, lying. A pissed off Sheriff is just one more problem for the lawyers, from the point of view of the Org; cops wanting to make more money off of Burning Man is a very real problem for Burners. Be careful out there: don’t give them any excuse to stop and search you.

Previous coverage:

Black Rock City – 100,000 or 50,000

Pershing County Requests 50,000 person limit at Burning Man

Sheriff Asks Org to Pony Up for More Officers

BURNILEAKS: Sexual Assaults, Missing Kids and Violent Crime

Re-blogged from the Lovelock Review Miner – emphasis and commentary ours


Burning Man disputes county comments

Debra Reid, News4Nevada

Tuesday, August 21, 2018 8:46 AM

In a rare public statement, a Burning Man spokesman questioned the accuracy of comments submitted to the BLM by Pershing County District Attorney Bryce Shields. The BLM accepted public comment as it evaluates the next ten-year Special Recreation Permit for the festival.

Roger Vind read a statement to county leaders during public comment. He asserted the county’s comments to the BLM are “inaccurate” due to “misinformation” provided by Sheriff Jerry Allen.

“It is unfortunate that misinformation propagated by the Sheriff has made its way into the County’s public comment,” Vind said. “We believe it is time for the Sheriff to be held accountable for his misstatements and mischaracterizations of our event.”

In his comments to the BLM, Shields suggested that Black Rock Rangers may have “filtered” crime reports by participants and that the BRR manual encouraged such behavior. As a result, crime reports could be less than the actual crimes committed at past Burning Man events.

“Anecdotal information from state and federal law enforcement officers suggests that the BRR encourages event participants to avoid reporting incidents to law enforcement in favor of resolving matters “in house” with the BRR’s assistance,” Shields said in comments to the BLM. “Such stories from law enforcement seem to be credible because the 2018 Black Rock Ranger (BRR) Manual contains instructions to BRRs to ‘filter’ what is reported to law enforcement.”

In his statement, Vind called it “absurd” to accuse Burning Man of stopping crime reports to law enforcement officers and that Black Rock Rangers have never been instructed to do so.

Our Black Rock Rangers in no way ‘filter’ information to law enforcement. In fact, there are 57 instances pertaining to law enforcement in the 2018 Black Rock Ranger Manual and the word ‘filter’ or any other reference to keeping information from law enforcement just does not exist.”

Vind also contradicted the implication by Shields that crimes at past events, including sexual assault, had been underreported to county law enforcement officers at Burning Man.

“This serious allegation is not only untrue but is contradicted by Sheriff Allen himself.”

Vind included an email from Allen regarding the need for a better definition of sexual assault.

“I do appreciate the lengths that BRC, with your assistance, has gone through to assist us in our endeavor to provide the best public safety we can,” Allen said in the email. “I also appreciate that you are instructing your Rangers to not inquire about penetration, or start an investigation, but rather to allow for the free flow of information from the potential victim.”

Allen later said the email text was accurate but that it was “grossly taken out of context.”

“That was a discussion about Burning Man’s internal policies which the Sheriff’s Office does not make,” he said. “I think their policies and some of their definitions are far out of line with Nevada Revised Statutes but I can’t make them change their internal policies.”

Allen said that, in his experience, “there have been things that have gone unreported.”

“Some of it may not be on Burning Man,” he explained. “Some of it may the culture that they are working within, some it may be training or some of it may be lack of training. I think that, to a certain extent, there are things that are unreported or underreported. But, I also think there are things that are over-reported or wrongly or out of the wrong context.”

Citing crime statistics, Vind challenged Allen’s allegations of “high levels of crime at the event.”

“It is just not true and our statistics bear it out,” he said. “Utilizing the verified data we have from PSCO and the BLM from 2010 through 2016, the event population grew 58 percent. However, person-on-person crime only increased by two — from 10 to 12 and drug citations increased only 34 percent which is well below the population increase.”

Vind added there were 12 person-on-person crimes at the 2017 event, the same number as in 2016. He criticized Allen for not completing his After Action Report until a year after the event.

We would have had 2017 data had Sheriff Allen followed through in a timely manner with his After Action Report for the 2017 event. Unfortunately, he delivered it at the late day of July 9, 2018,” Vind said in his statement.

[this is pretty rich given that BMorg’s own 2017 Annual Report was released in July 2018, and it appears the 2017 Afterburn Report came out at the same time]. Burning Man has a 100+ person year round workforce and a $50 million budget, much more than PCSO – Ed.]

Vind responded to Shield’s concerns over weapons at the event. In one case, law enforcement discovered an assault weapon, a handgun and a large amount of ammunition at Burning Man.

“With respect to the District Attorney’s comments about our Gate screening process: In a state where ‘everybody has a gun’ (as we were told by local law enforcement), there have been only a handful of firearms at the event over the past decade,” Vind said in the statement.

Allen and other county officials have said Burning Man, where nudity and illegal drugs are common, is no place for children. Vind countered the criticism with is own.

“Sheriff Allen repeatedly advocates the event be 21 and over despite our having demonstrated the event is tremendously safe for children,” he said. “We believe parents should be the judge of what’s best for their children, not the Sheriff. The Sheriff is entitled to his opinions. However, anecdotes are not date and repeating untruths does not make them true.”

[Last year children got to watch a man killing himself by jumping in a fire. It is not “tremendously safe for children”, it is a place where by attending you voluntarily accept the risk of serious injury or even death. How could anyone say that is “tremendously safe”? The Sheriff says “drugs are common at Burning Man”, BMorg says (basically) “the only drugs were the people who got citations, as the population grows less people are doing drugs”. Repeating untruths does not make them true…YMMV – Ed.]

Vind also said Shields suggestion to cap Burning Man attendance at a maximum of 50,000 participates “does little to address the issues we face now and in the future of the event.”

Allen believes the proposed 50,000 person cap is still too much for the county and the region. It has become increasingly difficult to recruit officers from other agencies to patrol Burning Man.

“I think even at 50,000 persons, it’s too much for this county to sustain in the long haul unless some things are vastly reworked within the settlement agreement,” he said. “Unless things improve for Pershing County and Pershing County law enforcement, 10,000 people would be the max that we could sustain over a long period of time. I think 100,000 people is beyond what Nevada could handle, not just northern Nevada.”

Burning Man critic Dave Skelton agrees the festival is already too big for Pershing County and, at 100,000 people, it could be too big for the BLM.

“We’re at the point where I don’t think it can get any bigger than what it is and I don’t think its sustainable now,” he said. “The BLM has indicated over the last two years, they have as many people out there as they can get their hands on. There are other things that happen this month.”

BURNILEAKS: Sexual Assaults, Missing Kids and Violent Crime

Something that BMorg are always attempting to hush up are the details of the annual arrests. It used to be reported every year in the Reno Gazette-Journal, but since they appointed dedicated Burning Man beat reporter Jenny Kane that type of coverage has stopped. We have to try to piece the information together however we can.

I filed a FOIA request in January to get the 2017 arrest data from the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, but so far they haven’t even acknowledged it. Thanks very much to our source DS who sent us the 2015, 2016, and some 2017 information below. The information we received includes the names of all people arrested in 2015 and 2017 and what they were charged with, compiled from the local paper. Don’t panic! We won’t be publishing the names. We hope to get more 2017 information soon.

The official reports confirm a shockingly large number of sexual assaults – 15 in 2015, 11 in 2016 – and way more missing children than were previously reported. The rapes, not prosecuted; the children (thankfully) all found. No wonder BMorg wanted this hushed up. Sexual offenders who fail to register are a recurring problem. Kidnapping, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence, jailbreaks, and celebrities with armed bodyguards are all issues at Black Rock City. Don’t think that just because you’re “home”, that means you are safe – and don’t think for a moment that having a rule “no guns” means there are no guns there.

In fact, the Sheriff specifically states that he does not believe he can provide for the safety of Burners.

hot girl back

Image: Steemkr


BMorg vs PCSO

This has been an ongoing battle for many years. The cops think they should get more money as the festival gets bigger and goes for longer, BMorg thinks they should keep all the money for themselves to give to artists and make the world a better place. BMorg has big lawyers and political clout, they tell the Sheriff where to stick it, so to meet the budget required the Sheriff’s Office feels compelled to arrest and cite more Burners – to make their side of the argument stronger. “Look at all these criminals, our budget’s not big enough!”. Burners who pay $500-$1200 a ticket are thus used as pawns in an argument that people with $40 million per year of ticket money are having with local officials over 50 grand.

Screenshot 2018-05-07 14.13.52

Pershing County normally has a population of approximately 6,800 people within the County.  This population includes approximately 1,600 inmates incarcerated at the [gated community of the] Lovelock Correctional Center.  For this population, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office has 13 full time Sworn Law Enforcement Deputies, including the Sheriff, to perform all of the duties statutorily mandated for the Sheriff’s Office.  This equates to approximately 1 Deputy for every 400 persons permanently residing in Pershing County, minus those incarcerated. 

During the approximate 10-12 days of the active portion of the Burning Man Festival, the population of just the Festival balloons to upwards of 80,000+ persons.  Still with only the 13 Sworn Full-Time Deputies within the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.  Based on this population, it would appear the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office would need to have approximately 200 Deputies to provide similar staffing for the visitors to the Burning Man Festival. However, Burning Man provides approximately 800+ ‘Black Rock Rangers’.  These employees of Burning Man are mostly made up of volunteers, some of whom have very limited training, to interact with the population and attempt to mitigate issues before they rise to the level of a Law Enforcement Response.  Some of the Rangers are trained enough to provide a force multiplication, to a limited extent, for Law Enforcement. 


The Problem, In a Few Charts

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Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.55.18

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2015 Report – Highlights

  • 1 death before the event
  • 15 sexual assaults reported
  • sex offender failed to register
  • 6 children went missing – all found
  • incident with nude man and his nude 4 year old child at adult event
  • 1 arrest for kidnapping
  • celebrities bringing armed bodyguards
  • an inmate tried to escape from the temporary jail
  • event ran for 9 days, previous discussions were around 7
  • big load on Sheriff’s office while construction/tear down happening
  • year end load processing all criminal cases, court dates etc
  • “the comradery [sic] which was built during this event will extend through the state” – from cops, Feds, agencies working together
  • integration with Humboldt Medical Team, who were kicked out for CrowdRX

 

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Screenshot 2018-05-07 13.58.52

You are more likely to get a citation from the BLM than the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office. The cops issued 143 citations and 175 verbal warnings. That makes 677 citations total for 2015, plus 43 arrests

Screenshot 2018-05-07 14.09.53


2015 Sheriff’s Report:

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2016 Sheriff’s Report – Highlights

The Sheriff actually says that after consulting with “entities” about Burning Man’s ability to deal with a critical incident like a mass casualty event, the results were “extremely dismal” and that he cannot in good conscience provide adequate safety to citizens attending the event.

Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.41.15

9 people including Burning Man organization employees were arrested on the site before the event began, charged with “possessing trafficking levels of narcotics”

Screenshot 2018-05-07 15.45.00

Other highlights

  • 46 arrrests (43 in 2015)
  • 152 citations (+326 BLM, total 478)
  • sex offenders failing to register
  • 11 sexual assaults reported
    • 1 arrest on playa
    • 2 reports after the festival, after victim returned to Reno and went to hospital for treatment – started by Reno PD
  • several reports of missing or lost children – not just the single Amber Alert we were told about, that closed exodus for 8 hours

2016 Sheriff’s Report

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2016 Burning Man Response

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2017 Crime Scorecard

Crime Statistics for previous years:

2016   2015   2014   2013   2012


Thanks to Anonymous Burner who sent this in on January 1st – not a day I am usually reading much email, so it slipped through the cracks. Thank you for the reminder, and thanks to One Who Wants To Know for asking if I’d run out of things to complain about – sometimes a bit of motivation helps, particularly in these dark days of Facebook shadow-banning.

Pershing County are not the biggest fans of Burning Man, as you will see from the Lovelock Review-Miner article below. A quarter of the county’s population are incarcerated in the correctional facility, including (until just recently) OJ “The Juice” Simpson.

Most of the time, Pershing County is a safe place with a low crime rate. But in August and September, their crime rate spikes to amongst the worst in the country. Burners make the whole County look bad. Burners might think “well they should be happy to have us, we are great for the economy” but this is only true for Washoe County, where Reno is.

We used to be able to read about arrests at Burning Man in the Reno Gazette-Journal, but ever since they appointed  Jenny Kane (of Chocotaco scoop fame) as their dedicated Burning Man beat reporter, stories like this seem to get hushed up.

Pershing County smashed through all previous records with a whopping 179 arrests in August and September 2017. Other than FOIA, there is no way to tell how many were for Burners, but based on the average for the remaining months of 4.9 we can safely assume it is 97%.

2017 pershing county unified crime report

What sort of things were Burners getting up to? 1 forcible rape, 2 larceny (theft), 6 arson…the rest drugs – selling them, or possessing hard drugs. The Sheriff says they have confiscated guns from within Black Rock City and are concerned that the event organizers are not able to prevent guns coming in.

2017 pershing county crime types

Looks pretty safe for stoners, you’re more likely to get a citation than an arrest. Be careful, though: even though marijuana is legal in Nevada, Burning Man takes place on Federal land – and we all know how much Attorney General Jeff “Smoke” Sessions loves weed.

The Cannabist: Can You Bring Weed To Burning Man?

Pershing County wants more money to cover the costs, which they incur longer than just for the period the gates are open. In a case of Allen vs Allen, BMorg says “$182,221 is enough” – ie, stick it where the sun don’t shine, Sheriff!

Burning Man’s spin-meisters made the argument that the legalization of weed would lead to reduced costs for the Pershing County’s Sheriffs Office. Looks like the cops responded with a record number of arrests – almost quadruple last year’s record setting 46, which was up 600% on the year before.

Once again, BMorg tries to pinch pennies from the LEOs, and the LEOs take it out on the Burners. A familiar pattern by now in this decade-long dispute.


From the Lovelock Review Monitor, story by Debra Reid (emphasis ours):

BLM requests public input on Burning Man

Thursday, December 28, 2017 1:00 AM

Pershing County residents and other concerned citizens are reminded that January 15, 2018 is the Bureau of Land Management’s deadline for public comment on the Burning Man festival.

The BLM must gather public input as it prepares an Environmental Impact Statement on the event. The EIS is required before the agency can issue another ten year Special Recreation Permit for the festival in the spring of 2019. The current SRP expires after the 2018 festival.

Black Rock City LLC, organizer of the event, is requesting that the new SRP allow expansions beyond the current maximum of 70,000 paid participants to a maximum population from 80,000 to 100,000 people on the playa, including ticket-holders, staff, contractors and volunteers.

To accommodate the larger crowd, BRC is also asking the BLM to expand the closure area. Some of the festival’s main attractions are the burning of massive structures, including a giant wooden effigy during the climax of the event. One Burning Man participant died at the 2017 event after he broke through multiple lines of security and leaped into the conflagration.

Nudity and drugs are not uncommon, making the event controversial in a conservative, rural county. Urban areas in Washoe and Lyon County benefit economically from the event while Pershing County supplies much of the law enforcement, incarceration and other services.

The 2013 Comprehensive Festival Ordinance Waiver, Law Enforcement and Settlement Agreement between BRC and Pershing County limits BRC’s costs for county services according to event attendance and integrated versus separate law enforcement command.

The ten-year agreement has become an ongoing source of contention between county law enforcement and festival officials. Even as the festival expands in 2019 and beyond, law enforcement payments to the county are restricted until the agreement expires in 2023.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen contends that the festival requires year-round attention and much more than eight days of county law enforcement services due to accidents and crime that occur during the weeks of set up, tear down and clean up before and after the event.

BRC officials respond that law enforcement activities outside the eight day festival are not included in the settlement agreement and are part of the normal costs of county government.

BRC has refused to pay an invoice for $39,959.20 submitted to the county by Sheriff Allen for county law enforcement costs due to activities before and after the 2016 Burning Man event. BRC General Counsel Raymond Allen argued that those expenses were covered in a total payment to the county of $243,964.92, per the settlement agreement.

“The decision to allocate $182,221.83 to the Sheriff out of the total amount that BRC paid to the County in 2016 was an exercise of the County’s sole and absolute discretion under Section 4.1 of the Agreement and was presumably based on what the Commissioners determined to be the cost of supplying ‘reasonable law enforcement services needed’ for the 2016 event,” Ray Allen stated in a letter to the county. “If the Sheriff’s Office disagreed with the Commission and decided to spend more than the amount that was allocated by the Commission, that decision had no effect whatsoever on BRC’s payment obligations under the Agreement.”

Sheriff Allen and other county law enforcement officials say they have confiscated guns inside the festival and question the ability of BRC’s gatekeepers to keep weapons out of the event.

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Nevada, that should reduce citations issued at the event, Burning Man Political Affairs Manager Marnee Benson said in a letter to the county.

In 2016, 62 of the 152 PCSO citations issued in connection with the Burning Man event were for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana,” Benson stated in a February 1, 2017 letter.

“That is to say, 41 percent of Pershing’s citations were issued for conduct that is now legal in Nevada. We expect this will free up a significant amount of time and budget for PCSO in 2017.” [the arrest statistics for 2017 indicate otherwise – Ed.]

In his written comments on the event submitted to the BLM, Lovelock resident David Skelton said if Burning Man expands, it will be an increasing burden on Pershing County taxpayers.

As Burning Man provides no economic benefit to Pershing County, to the contrary, if Burning Man left Pershing County and went elsewhere, there would then be an economic benefit, due to cost reduction,” Skelton said. “There are multiple locations the event can be held on either public or private lands outside of Pershing County.”

Written comments on the Burning Man SRP should be emailed by Jan. 15, 2018 to blm_nv_burningmaneis@blm.gov or mailed to the following address:

Attention: Burning Man Event SRP EIS

BLM Winnemucca District Office, 5100 E. Winnemucca Blvd., Winnemucca, NV 89445.