The relationship between the Burning Man festival and the new sheriff in Pershing County, Nevada could be strained this year, as the official has publicly stated his officers would enforce statutes more strictly, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
“We don’t have the personnel to issue citations to 70,000 naked people on the playa,” Sheriff Jerry Allen said. “But we will be upholding the law to the best of our ability.”
The sheriff later backtracked on that statement slightly, telling KRNV-TV that he would only prosecute people for nudity if they were not wearing clothes in front of minors.
Allen, who replaced Richard Machado as the county’s top law enforcement official in January, will increase the number of officers on duty during the event to 31, up four from last year. He is also relying more on active-duty officers than Machado, who relied more on retirees. Allen also said that if the county received more funding from the event, he would hire 100 more officers.
The county currently receives $240,000 from Burning Man, with $196,000 of that going toward paying for the department’s time and resources used at the festival, including trailers, water, showers, meals and fuel for the office Allen and his officers will use on the playa.
“Burning Man taxes this county. We don’t have the services to provide them,” he said. “Pretty much everything they buy, they buy outside. I’m not saying we need to make gobs and gobs of money. I’m glad they can bring economic interest to Nevada, but they leave Pershing County high and dry.”
The federal Bureau of Land Management, which patrols the area alongside the department during Burning Man, stated in a report that Machado did not enforce statues related to marijuana possession last year. Eight people were arrested, including four for possessing other controlled substances, one for domestic violence and one for sexual assault.
“The success of BLM and Pershing County integration is largely attributed to PCSO Sheriff Richard Machado’s vision and leadership,” the bureau said in its report. “Sheriff Machado understood the value and efficiency of law enforcement integration.”
However, Allen — who insisted he would not “change the laws” this year — was apparently less enthused about the festival’s impact on the area.
“Burning Man brings nothing to Pershing County except for heartache,” he said.
Festival spokesperson Jim Graham said organizers have been working with Allen since he was elected, and pointed toward the low number of arrests there in recent years as proof that less attendees were likely to break laws.
“It’s an ongoing process on education, but he hasn’t been out there for a few years,” Graham said of Allen. “So he hasn’t seen the progress we’ve made in recent years.”
KRNV’s report can be seen below.
[h/t The Free Thought Project]