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As the Sturgis rally winds down, Meade County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tom Wilts said he is seeing bikes and trailers packing up and heading out of Sturgis.

“We’ve seen the traffic today and yesterday filled with trailers and bikes heading out of town and toward the east and west,” Wilts said. “Things were steady, but then on Friday, it started to considerably die down.”

Although the crowds in Sturgis were smaller this year, Wilts said there were more arrests made than during busier years. He said that isn’t necessarily because there was more violence or crime than in previous years but because smaller crowds mean police officers have a better chance of responding to more incidents.

“Arrests on smaller years go up, because we have more opportunity to turn around and maneuver through the crowd and handle violations,” Wilts said. “Arrests were a little bit up this year -- not a huge amount, but they did go up.”

In years with heavier traffic, Wilts said, accidents actually tend to go down because riders are forced to go at a slower pace. However, Wilts said, because crowd size was down, there were more accidents this year than recent years.

“When we have years with a smaller population, there’s more opportunity for drivers to open up bikes and go faster, which results in more accidents,” he said. “This year, we had a fair amount more accidents than we have in the past couple years, just because of that.”

Wilts said he believes the downtown Sturgis gang fight between the Mongols and Hells Angels on Aug. 10, which resulted in a member from both groups being stabbed, may have been a contributing factor to smaller crowds.

“People pay good money to come out to Sturgis to ride and check out the scene, and they don’t want to be around something like that,” he said. “It’s unfortunate and even ridiculous that that sort of thing happens. It puts a damper on things.”

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However, despite smaller crowds and slightly more arrests and accidents, Wilts said he considers the 2011 Sturgis rally a success.

“Overall, things went really well,” he said. “Despite the urge many of our officers had to be in Rapid City to show their support to the fallen officers, our officers fulfilled their duty and helped ensure a safe rally.”

Contact Hannah Baker at 394-8419 or hannah.baker@rapidcityjournal.com.

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