Local authorities are working together to show a stronger presence at the Owens River after shocking, violent videos showed up on the popular website YouTube.com depicting a number of fights at popular riverside hangouts.
County sheriff’s deputies, along with officers from Inyo County Probation, the Bishop Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and the Ridgecrest Police Department conducted a joint enforcement operation at the Rope Swings location on the Owens River southeast of Bishop on Saturday. Law enforcement cited seven individuals for underage drinking or contributing to the delinquency of a minor and arrested one subject for resisting, obstructing or delaying a peace officer.
Related probation checks conducted in Bishop and Big Pine resulted in nine arrests for probation/parole violations.
The task force was put together to conduct a series of parole and probation checks in Bishop and Big Pine, but, according to Sheriff’s Sergeant Chris Connolly, it also wanted to ensure its presence at the river was apparent while the department had extra hands available.
“The primary reason for this joint enforcement detail at the river was due to recent reports and YouTube videos showing fighting, alcohol abuse and other illegal activities,” Sheriff’s Sergeant Chris Connolly said. “The videos were recorded along the Owens River; a major concern was the large amount of underage drinking that was being featured in the videos.”
The YouTube channel Connolly was referring to had several videos showing different fights at the Rope Swings location on the river. In the videos, what appears to be groups of juveniles could be seen with alcoholic beverages in hand. The YouTube channel has been removed from the site.
“I am extremely pleased with the outcome of this operation,” said Sheriff Bill Lutze. “I have received positive comments and feedback from citizens, and I would like to express great appreciation for the support from the Allied Enforcement personnel who assisted in this operation.”
California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Dennis Cleland said the CHP has noticed an increase in problem behavior at the river. Aside from the YouTube videos, which Cleland said created a buzz among the local law enforcement community, officers with the CHP have reported rowdy youth at the river throwing things at police cruisers as they patrol the area.
Connolly said his deputies have not reported witnessing such extreme behavior towards law enforcement but, in light of the YouTube videos, “We’re taking it upon ourselves to go out there. We increase our patrols out there, especially on the weekends.”
As for residents and families going to the river to fish, float and swim, Connolly said it is still a safe place.
“These incidents happen pretty much anywhere you go. It’s still a great place to be,” he said. “I’ve seen families that say they’re absolutely delighted to see us out there.”
Connolly said sheriff’s personnel have identified some of the individuals that were featured in the YouTube videos and are keeping an eye out when they conduct patrols at the river.
“It’s supposed to be a fun time out there, we just don’t like the illegal activity and the underage drinking,” Connolly said. “If we get out there, the word starts to spread” and, hopefully, the illegal activity stops.