Sturgis Rally
Sturgis Rally
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©2012 photo by Brett Lovell

Large numbers of cops are needed each year at the Sturgis Rally to make sure the outlaw bikers that attend don't get out of hand. For 2013 there will be fewer federal agents available to keep an eye on things for the first time in 10 years. Budget cuts known as sequestration have stalled the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives attendance. In the recent past more than 20 ATF agents to patroled Sturgis during the Rally. A single agent in Rapid City will be on call this year when the rally officially starts on Aug. 5, officials said. "If there was some sort of threat that came forward, the agency would re-evaluate the need and act accordingly to a threat," South Dakota's ATF resident agent in charge Bob Boland said. "One-percenters" will be there in one form or another. "They have pretty much attached their names to all of your criminal activities," Boland said. "They are the one percent who are the worst of the worst. "Specific to the rally, there is a definite pattern of criminal conduct with some of their members," he said. "They have been involved with many violent crimes at the rally." Although there is a balance between petty and violent crimes during the weeklong event, Boland said the gangs' criminal activity includes serious crimes such as assault and murder. "It's public knowledge what happened in 2006," Boland said, referring to a rally shootout between the Outlaws and Hells Angels at Custer Park and other violence among the gangs. "Our intelligence was pretty accurate, but we couldn't stop everything from happening."

Boland said ATF has been at the annual motorcycle gathering for more than 20 years. The last time budget constraints affected ATF's rally presence was in 2005. He would not comment on how much money the agency saves by not attending the rally this year. "It's just kind of a personal disappointment," Boland said. "We like being there and supporting them. But it's budget impacts, and we know what that means." Despite the lack of ATF agents this year, Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said he expects a safe rally. "Anytime there is a large gathering of people, there is a potential for an incident," he said. "But if you look at the statistics, we are by far one of the safest places you can be." "Our police department will continue to provide a safe place for everyone for the week," Ainslie said, adding the police have always been the backbone of security. He said ATF is just one of numerous federal agencies present at the rally, including the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the National Guard, the Bureau of Land Management and even the National Forest Service. He said last year the city hired police from nine states to help out.

Sturgis Police Chief Jim Bush said even that support will be comparatively less than in past years. "The things they were involved with won't go away," Bush said. "We're going to have to find a way to do them." Ainslie wouldn't comment on exactly how many officers and agents will be available. "It's significant," he said.


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