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Police tell Barnum they're ready to handle Hells Angels rally

Members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club ride between Missoula, Mont., and the club's campsite during the their 2008 rally. This year they will be riding through Carlton and St. Louis counties, beginning the end of July. (Photo by Kurt Wilson)

The stepped-up show of law enforcement may be as noticeable as the hundreds of Hells Angels motorcyclists who will roll into Carlton and neighboring counties soon.

"You may see [Hells Angels] members from the state, U.S. and maybe from other countries," Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake told about 50 residents at a community meeting Tuesday in Barnum. "You will also see an increased number of squad cars, and they may be from other places. We don't have the manpower to cover it."

Officials at the meeting said they feel prepared, with half a dozen or more law enforcement agencies working together to keep the public safe while the motorcycle gang converges in Carlton from July 29 to Aug. 2.

"The presence of law enforcement in uniform has been a deterrent," Lake said about some of the worst of the behavior that has been reported during Hells Angels annual summer gatherings that take place before the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota.

Last year in Missoula, Mont., only a few incidents were reported, Lake said.

"There were a few assaults and some traffic issues," she said. "That's pretty uneventful."

But Carlton County Deputy Dan Danielson said that other incidents reported at previous events -- sexual assaults, drug crimes and even murder -- are in the back of their minds.

"We're not here to scare people and make them stay in their houses with locked doors," he said.

Cloquet Deputy Police Chief Terry Hill said some of the trouble comes when people are overly inquisitive, wanting to make a name for themselves or messing with motorcycles that don't belong to them.

One woman at the meeting asked how cautious she should be during this time.

"If you do see a problem or something suspicious," Lake told her, "don't feel bad about [dialing] 911. It's our job to investigate those situations."

People who attended the meeting also asked about the possibility of problems with a rival motorcycle group in Wisconsin known as the Outlaws.

"We are aware and working with law enforcement in Wisconsin to monitor that," Lake said.

Officials also confirmed that the Lost Isle bar in Carlton has been rented by the club and that it will be closed to the public while the group is in the area. Lake also confirmed that members of the Hells Angels have rented hotel rooms at Black Bear Casino Resort and will be staying at other nearby campgrounds and hotels.

Cheryl Fitzgerald, owner of the Arts Café in Moose Lake, said she heard members of the motorcycle club do "a lot of charity work."

"They're people too," she said. "Don't be afraid."

While Danielson agreed, he said people can't lose sight of the fact that over the years there has been documented criminal activity.

"We're very hopeful everything will go smoothly," Danielson said. "I think if we're respectful of them, they'll be respectful of us."

The next community meeting is at 6:30 p.m. today at Cloquet Middle School.