Smith County Sheriff Releases Trail Ride Enforcement Plan
We continue to monitor the fallout from last weekend's shooting incident at a trail ride that sent 5 people to the hospital including one victim who remains in the hospital in serious but stable condition.
There has been growing controversy and conversation over the last few days since the incident on what can be done to prevent the uptick in violence at these events. Many are concerned that the county may have a "political agenda" to get trail rides banned. In a press conference today (July 1) Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith shared details on an enforcement action plan in hopes of keeping these events safe.
Sheriff Smith was joined by representatives of several East Texas police departments.
According to a press release we received, representatives of the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, Smith County District Attorney’s Office, Harrison County District Attorney’s Office, Smith County Fire Marshal’s Office and Smith County Constable Precinct 4 Office have met several times in order to better regulate these events for the safety and security of the citizens of each respective entity.
There are numerous concerns and rules and regulations that must be adhered to in order to safely organize and operate large gatherings such as those seen in the Trail Rides, especially those coupled with horse racing, ATVs, side by sides and concerts all in one. In Smith County, organizers and promoters of such events as well as the land owners on which the events take place will be held accountable. We will utilize every tool available to us in order to maintain the safety and security of the attendees as well as the public at large.
The Sheriff cited the uptick in violence in Trail Rides as a reason for this action.
Sheriff's Smith went on to add that it is no secret that over the past several years in the northeast Texas area, Trail Rides have occurred which culminated in attendees being shot and some killed. These have occurred in Smith County, Harrison County, Morris County and Rusk County.
The Enforcement Plan Will Involve The Fire Marshal's Office, Smith County Constables and Texas DPS.
Going forward, the Fire Marshal’s Office will be the original entity involved in this process which pertains to the inspection of the event location to ensure it complies with rules and regulations such as making sure any food vendor is permitted by Net Health, there are bathroom facilities available such as portable toilets, there is no non mowed dead grass at the site which creates an enormous fuel load should a fire occur, making sure there is suitable and safe egress and ingress for emergency vehicles should a life safety event occur.
Trail Ride Event Locations Will Be Inspected
Pursuant to the Texas Local Government Code, the Smith County Fire Marshal’s Office is currently developing policies which will call on the Fire Marshal or his designee to inspect any site designated for a gathering of persons, where money or good is exchanged for entry, which could pose enhanced risk to the lives and well-being of Smith County citizens or visitors. This includes both indoor and outdoor events occurring within unincorporated areas of the county.
The purpose for these inspections is to try to mitigate risks and dangers we are seeing with these events as of late. If the event cannot be conducted in a manner consistent with these codes, a fire marshal order will be issued citing the property is not eligible to host the event. A violation of this order is a Class B misdemeanor which carries a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail for a first violation. After two or more convictions for violation of a fire marshal order, the violation becomes a state jail felony.
In Smith County Precinct 4, Constable Josh Joplin’s Office has agreed to conduct the Coggins Equine checks. A negative Coggins test conducted within the past 12 month period is required any time two or more equine/horses are at one location. Constable Joplin and his office will be responsible for ensuring these tests have been completed prior to the Trail Rides and if not will be responsible for ensuring the owner of the equine/horse quarantines the animal until which time they can provide a negative test from an approved veterinarian. Their office will also be responsible for issuing citations for those owners who fail to provide a negative Coggins test upon inspection.
Traffic and Violence Enforcement
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of the Fire Marshal’s Office, respective Constable’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety will respond to any other criminal offenses, including the blocking of public roadways, disturbances both physical altercations and loud music, as well as any aggravated assaults occurring with or without a firearm.
The majority of these events are open to the public at a designated cost and therefore become subject to enforcement of all of the aforementioned rules and regulations. Additionally, the Texas State Comptroller’s Office has been contacted related to the exchange of funds such as entry fees, food and drink sales and etc.