Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Game Warden Files--Northampton Beach Campground

Northampton Campground was in my patrol sector so it was natural that I spent a lot of time there. I'd often stop in during the day and check out the population to see how the population looked. By mid-afternoon you could pretty well tell how things were going to be by 10 PM when quiet hours began.

I always had a good working relationship with the staff there and the Park Rangers generally looked forward to joining me cleaning out the problems.  If we could get the place quiet by midnight, the rest of their nights were easier for them.  One of them referred to the weekend work with me as "Bill and his band of merry Rangers."  We solved a lot of problems, wrote a bunch of tickets had a lot of fun.  Some of the younger folks who served as Park Rangers went on to be successful law enforcement professionals.  I like to think I was a small part of their success.

Of course some events stand out more than others.  One muggy Saturday afternoon I took a ride through and marked a site that the Rangers had already seen as a potential for problems.  Lots of young people, sort of trashy looking cars, loud music...all the hallmarks of a problem site.  In the late afternoon the sky darkened and the rain started so by the time I returned to campground the place was really pretty quiet.  The Park Rangers on duty that night, Chris and Art, were waiting for me at the gate to tell me that the site we'd anticipating as a problem seemed to have gone to bed.  As we walked in the direction of the suspect site all was indeed dark and quiet.  Suddenly, as if on command, we saw a bit of light in one of the tents as someone lit a gas lantern.  Then the door to the tent was opened and one of the campers appeared at the door, other bodies started to stir and we worked our way closer to the open tent.  I was just coming near the open doorway, and still unobserved, when the young man in the doorway started to light up a marijuana pipe.  GAME ON! We found more drugs, unregistered campers, underage possession of alcohol, a lot of violation.  At the end, we had about a dozen tickets written and the campsite being packed up.  We had enough sober drivers among them to send them down the road.  By midnight, they were gone.

Another night, neighboring officer Jim Harnish and I were walking the campsite and focused on one site that was tucked back in the woods.  We walked quietly toward it and found a group trying to decide if they were going to smoke all their pot that night or save some for the next.  Of course, we decided to add the third option: Neither!

There were 10 of them, and they were all from Canada, so we couldn't just give them tickets as there was no way to get them back to the court.  We called one of the local judges who agreed to meet us at his court and had them pack their cars and follow us there.  After they all gave guilty pleas, the matter of fines came up. The judge came up with a total dollar figure and the young folks realized that the judge was really serious about the money--and they didn't have it...not even close! All together, they had enough to pay a couple fines, so two of them were released to make a run north to meet one of the parents who was southbound with cash. When it was all said and done, they paid in Canadian money which, at the time was of substantially lower value but the judge figured it was close enough and took it without the discount, letting them go home.

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