Dianne Frances D. Powell
TERRE HAUTE —
After thousands of people from all over the country had descended on Terre Haute last weekend for the three-day Scheid Diesel Extravaganza, one prominent police official said the public safety aspect surrounding the event went better than in previous years.
“Overall, it was a safe weekend and very few problems,” Sgt. Joe Watts of the Indiana State Police said Sunday. The extravaganza took place at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds, Friday through Sunday.
Watts said arrests were for driving under the influence and drug violations. Citations were issued for traffic violations such as speeding, excessive smoke and no seatbelts.
Official numbers from the Indiana State Police are expected to be released on Monday.
“As compared to last year, we think this one went much better,” Watts said.
Last year, incidents such as throwing objects at vehicles and pedestrians, drag racing and cutting through the median on U.S. 41 were among some of the problems, police said.
The Indiana State Excise Police, the law enforcement division of the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission, said in press release issued Sunday that its officers arrested 254 people on 305 charges in connection with the extravaganza.
It said 105 people were arrested on suspicion of underage possession or consumption of alcohol. That included 21 juveniles younger than 18, five of whom were also charged with false informing and one with being in a liquor store.
Excise police also said 12 adults were arrested on suspicion of furnishing or providing alcohol to minors; three on suspicion of operating while intoxicated; and five on drug charges.
Others were arrested, the excise police press release said, “after they were observed ‘power braking’ in large crowds of people in store parking lots along U.S. 41. In each case, the trucks swayed in the rear while holding occupants in the truck beds, in addition to there being numerous pedestrians immediately next to the trucks.”
And 12 juveniles were cited for possession of tobacco, the excise police said.
“The goal of the state excise police is to ensure the safety of the patrons of this event and others around the state,” said Superintendent Matt Strittmatter after working with excise officers on Friday and Saturday. “In order to achieve that goal, we must continue our efforts to make certain that alcohol is consumed responsibly and lawfully.”
(By comparison, excise police arrested 93 people on 129 charges in Bloomington last weekend — 56 people on suspicion of underage possession or consumption of alcohol, 20 of whom were also charged with possession of false ID’s. Several of those were also cited for making a false statement of age to a licensed establishment. Four minors were also arrested for being in a tavern or liquor store.
(One 19-year-old taken to IU Health Bloomington Hospital tested 0.257 percent blood-alcohol level, excise police said.
(Also last weekend, excise police arrested 18 people on 20 charges in Muncie. Those charges were for illegal possession or consumption of alcohol; furnishing alcohol to a minor; possession of marijuana; and disorderly conduct.)
The Vigo County Sheriff’s Office had no major incidents to report.
“We had an influx in traffic citations and most of them would have been unsafe starts,” that is, breaking traction from a stop position, said Vigo County Chief Deputy Clark Cottom.
Deputies saw a 20-percent increase in traffic citations, he said.
In addition to traffic citations, Cottom said there were people cited for excessive smoke violations.
Official numbers from the Vigo County Sheriff’s Office will also be released Monday.
“By and large, it was a peaceful event as far as law enforcement is concerned,” Cottom said in an interview Sunday.
But because of problems in recent years, police made sure they were well-prepared.
In addition to the five deputies doing routine patrols in the county, the Vigo County Sheriff’s Office added an additional 10 officers who patrolled along the U.S. 41 corridor from the area south of Interstate 70 down to Walmart South.
“It would be true for any major event. It is very common to step up patrol in anticipation of an increase in vehicle and pedestrian traffic,” Cottom said.
“Anytime you have an increase of several thousand people, it’s going to increase demand for emergency services,” Cottom added.
The Indiana State Police also beefed up.
“We had about 55 or so troopers working both weekend nights [Friday and Saturday],” Watts said.
He added that ISP motorcycle units came in from all over the state.
Cottom said many business owners contracted with private security to keep loitering in check and to allow for their customers to come in and out with no problems.
Aware of increased traffic on U.S. 41, many local residents used alternate routes, Cottom said, adding that the department saw an increase in local traffic on Indiana 63, Seventh Street and 13th Street leading to the Indiana 641 bypass.
“A lot of local residents chose the alternate routes. That reduction aided … in keeping the U.S. 41 corridor flowing,” Cottom said.
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.