Law enforcement preparations underway for the Sturgis Rally
STURGIS, S.D. — Hundreds of thousands of people pour into the Black Hills each year for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and preparations are underway by local law enforcement as they get ready for the event.
According to Chief of Police Geody VanDewater, the Sturgis Police Department hires a number of additional officers to help with the influx of calls.
“Our officers come from all over the U.S. with the majority coming from South Dakota and Nebraska. We have officers that come for one year and never come back and we have officers that come year after year, with the one officer coming for the past 41 years.”
VanDewater says parking and traffic issues are among the biggest challenges law enforcement officers deal with during the event, but incidences of crime also go up.
“Our main calls for service historically have been parking issues. We do see an increase with all types of crimes and traffic violations. DUI’s, drugs and domestics tend to increase, as all the other crimes when there is alcohol involved.”
According to VanDewater, those crime levels haven’t decreased as the rally population has aged. Instead, the amount of crime seen each year depends on how many people are in attendance. One thing that has changed, however, is the prevalence of methamphetamine.
“The numbers adjust accordingly to the amount of people who come to town, but we still see the same types of crimes. The biggest increase we have seen over the years has been meth possession. This is constantly increasing in communities and isn’t just a rally issue. We see this growing outside of the rally as well.”
Another growing crime is sex trafficking. VanDewater says that despite more public awareness around the issue in recent years, the number of cases continues to rise. “If anything, there seems to be an increase, not only with the rally, but all over the U.S. We work with our state partners to try and investigate all accusations or reports.”
As the rally quickly approaches, kicking off on Friday, August 2, law enforcement officials are reminding the public to drive safely, wear the proper protective gear when they ride, and report issues such as intoxicated motorists when they see them — as it could prevent a tragedy.
“We would like to remind riders to use all safety equipment especially eye protection. If they drink, please don’t drive as you will go to jail,” said VanDewater. “And most importantly if you see something say something.”