PALM SPRINGS — Smarting from the disturbances caused last month by rowdy college students celebrating their spring vacation in this desert resort, city officials say that dozens of additional police officers will be on the streets next year for the annual swarm of revelers.
Police Chief Thomas Kendra said he expects that publicity from this year's events will attract even more students next year and that he will contract with neighboring police agencies to beef up the force and "minimize the risk" of a "riot that could sack downtown." Kendra added that the problem could even reappear as early as the Memorial Day weekend, May 24-26.
Kendra's plan was announced after a special town hall meeting Wednesday attended by about 40 residents and merchants who shared ideas on how to prevent another disturbance like the one that surged through town on the weekend of March 28.
Police Arrest 530
Some of the estimated 15,000 students in town dumped water on passing motorists, ripped the clothes off women and threw rocks and bottles at police. Authorities made more than 530 arrests during the weeklong rite, which cost the city $100,000 in overtime salaries and $40,000 in damages.
Kendra said he is working on a plan to add officers next year who would be hired on a contractual basis from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol.
In addition, Mayor Frank Bogert said he will appoint a special committee of merchants, hotel owners and City Council members to recommend other preventive measures, taking into consideration comments raised at two town hall meetings.
One of those who attended was Dr. Garrett O'Brien.
Fears It Will Spread
"I think we've got a situation here . . . (and) we have not even begun to appreciate how dangerous it is," O'Brien told a reporter afterward. He added that he fears that "the sacking of downtown Palm Springs will overflow into neighborhoods like mine."