Citations and arrests for drug-related incidents in Yosemite have climbed in the last five years, according to NBC's Investigative Unit, making it the U.S. national park with the most arrests. By far.
Of all America’s national parks, Yosemite has both the highest number of incidents, as well as the most citations and arrests per 100,000 visitors. The chart below shows the numbers over a three year period from 2010-2012.
|Park||Drug Possession Arrests||Total Visitors||Drug Arrests Per 100K Visitors|
The majority of incidents in Yosemite occur in the seven-square-mile area of Yosemite Valley—a relatively small space given that the park is the size of Rhode Island. In total, Yosemite has seen an 18 percent increase in the number of arrests and citations since 2007, according to numbers from Yosemite’s Annual Law Enforcement Reports. In 2012, 855 visitors were cited or arrested for drug possession.
Anyone arrested in Yosemite is subject to federal laws and must appear at the courthouse in Yosemite Valley, often in front of United States Magistrate Judge Michael J. Seng. Seng says the majorty of cases involve marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and ecstasy.
“It seems to me that they come up [here] with a little bit of a spring break mentality,” he said of offenders.
Park visitors and nearby residents cite various reasons for the number of arrests and citations in Yosemite. While some credit vigilant rangers, others believe it’s simply a result of the higher concentration of visitors who camp in the Valley.
“Yosemite sees about three million visitors a year and most of them come to about seven square miles of park, Defense Attorney Mike Mitchell, who often represents visitors busted for drugs, told NBC. He believes this allows rangers to focus their efforts.