Commentary

printed 10/14/2022

Part of the follow-up reporting after a vehicle rally here is to list the number of arrests, calls for service, traffic violations and incidents that occurred during corresponding time periods.

The idea is to give readers an idea of how the crowd generated by the event — its participants, spectators and nonparticipants who inserted themselves into the mix — behaved.

This, however, is no precise measure of the conduct of a specific group of people, but is instead a broad look at the total population in town at that particular time. In other words, not everyone in town during a car rally, for instance, is here because of it.

As informative as these statistics might be when they are stacked up against reports from previous years, they also can be misleading, because no distinction is made between the number of event participants and the total visitor population.

If, for instance, police conducted 266 traffic stops during last weekend’s Endless Summer Cruisin’, which registered some 2,700 vehicles, that would suggest that 12 out of every 125 cars and trucks got the police department’s attention.

The problem with that is that it doesn’t account for the weekend’s other 50,000 or so motorists who were here for other reasons and undoubtedly warranted some police attention as well.

As it was, the fall car cruise this year was exceptionally quiet despite its increased registration over last year.

An even better example of this lack of perspective is BikeFest, when 60,000 or more motorcycle enthusiasts came to town. Although 76 arrests and incidents were reported in the follow-up, that constitutes no more than one-eighth of one percent of the event’s participants — again excluding the other 100,000 – 200,000 people in town that weekend.

Considering that BikeFest business saved the resort’s lodging industry’s bacon in an otherwise disastrous third quarter and that Cruisin’ was so low-key, it is unfair to look at these statistics from the bad news perspective. The benefits of these cruises and rallies are incalculable, whereas the police interactions are easy to count, but don’t present the full picture.

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