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Easter brings quiet close to off-roading season

April 01, 2002|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The Easter holiday weekend brought to a quiet end the major holiday season for crowds that file into the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

Imperial County Sheriff Harold Carter said Easter is the last of the major holidays in which the sand dunes are filled with thousands of off-roaders.

Once Easter passes and temperatures start to rise, activity in the dunes slows.

However, planning already is under way for the start of the next holiday season, which will kick off, Carter said, with Halloween and quickly be followed by Thanksgiving, the holiday in which the largest crowds file into the dunes.

Authorities reported the Easter weekend saw few problems. There were some arrests but no major incidents, Carter said. About 150 officers, both local and from outside the Valley, joined in the law enforcement effort.

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The contingent for Easter weekend consisted of officers from the county Sheriff's Office, the BLM, the California Highway Patrol, U.S. Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, California Department of State Parks and Recreation, California Department of Forestry, state Bureau of Narcotics, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the county District Attorney's Office and the state Department of Corrections. Those officers dealt with a crowd of about 50,000 people.

Carter said the quiet end to the holiday season is a sign the increased law enforcement presence in the dunes is making a difference.

"People seem to be paying attention now that we have the law enforcement there," Carter said.

The increased law enforcement grew largely out of the violence that marred last year's Thanksgiving holiday when about 40 officers tried to maintain control of a crowd of 190,000. One person suffered a fatal gunshot wound, two people were stabbed and a law enforcement officer was run down by a motorist he was trying to stop.

In the holidays that followed the level of violence dropped sharply as more officers were assigned to the dunes.

Carter said agencies will be ready for next Thanksgiving. He said he is involved in negotiations with Riverside and San Diego counties to have law enforcement agencies from those areas bolster the local force.

He said there will likely be at least 150 officers assigned to the dunes next Thanksgiving.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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