Event generated three shoplifting reports and complaints of panhandling but no major incidents

Back in the mid-1990s, when the Rainbow Family chose Ochoco National Forest for its national gathering, it caused its share of problems.

Not only was the community and forest flooded with thousands of people, some businesses reported shoplifting incidents while panhandling by others prompted complaints.

“The first time they were here, it was a major mess,” said Prineville Police Sergeant Joann Bauer.

This past week, when the Rainbow Family held its regional gathering on the forest, it caused few problems for law enforcement, businesses and forest personnel.

“We really haven’t had a lot of problems with them this time,” Bauer said.

She acknowledged that the police saw some panhandling complaints from local businesses as well as three reports of shoplifting, but nothing the department considered alarming.

Terry Harper, owner of Wagner’s IGA Market Fresh, gave a similar report, despite the fact that his store reported one of the shoplifting incidents.

“They were a small enough group where they just came in five or six people at a time,” he said.

Harper noted that his staff received some complaints because Rainbow Family members do not frequently bathe, but overall, the event had little adverse impact on his business. In fact, he said that the gathering was good for business.

“They are different, but they did buy a lot of groceries from me, too," said Harper.

Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley also seemingly came to the defense of the Rainbow Family after his department experienced no events during the recent gathering. Upon hearing about the city police reports of shoplifting and panhandling, he noted that any large group, regardless of who they represent, may increase criminal activity. Consequently, he doesn’t feel that the incidents should be attributed to the Rainbow Family itself.

“You can have bad apples in any group,” he said. “You can’t judge them all by one.”

Like the police department and sheriff’s office, Ochoco law enforcement encountered no major incidents during the gathering.

“We did a daily patrol through their camp just to talk to them about things like trash, fire safety, and keeping the roads clear of vehicles,” said Ochoco public affairs specialist Patrick Lair.

He said that forest personnel counted approximately 300 people during the gathering, but added that it was hard to determine the attendance as it fluctuated from day to day.

“They worked with our employees on an operating plan to protect the resources and prevent damage,” Lair continued. “It was pretty smooth.”

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