New sheriff wants to get tough on Burning Man visitors

A Nevada sheriff is promising to crack down on crime occurring in the Black Rock Desert at the upcoming Burning Man festival.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said he won't bend any rules for Burning Man visitors.

"We don't have the personnel to issue citations to 70,000 naked people on the playa, but we will be upholding the law to the best of our ability," Allen said.

The 39-year-old former deputy took over as sheriff in January.

His predecessor was known for being relatively Burner-friendly and hiring retired officers to patrol the festivities, Allen said. He will have at least 31 officers on the playa, four more than last year. Last year, then Sheriff Richard Machado halted prosecution of marijuana possession charges during last year's festival, according to a U.S. Bureau of Land Management assessment.

Allen told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he will only enlist active-duty deputies and officers to ensure all are trained to take appropriate actions to maintain safety.

Festival organizers say they have been collaborating with Allen and aren't afraid of any clashing.

"We've been working with (Allen) since his election, and he's been involved with all of the large coordination efforts," Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said. "It's an ongoing process on education, but he hasn't been out there for a few years, so he hasn't seen the progress we've made in recent years."

Burning Man is scheduled for Aug. 30 to Sept. 7 and can accommodate 70,000 people. Despite his reservations about the event, Allen is optimistic it will be a peaceful week.

Dale Weber, a leader in the Reno Burning Man community, said attendees shouldn't have anything to worry about if they aren't doing anything to draw undue attention from law enforcement.

"Don't give them reason to raise the hairs on their backs," Weber said. "Most of them are very reasonable, and if you are going to give them a hard time, they're going to give you a harder time."

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