Police ready for 'monster' of Unofficial

Police ready for 'monster' of Unofficial

CHAMPAIGN – Police say they are ready to handle Friday's "Unofficial St. Patrick's Day" celebration on the University of Illinois campus, as it appears thousands of students are once again ready to participate in the infamous event.

Unofficial St. Pat's traditions are simple enough: Students spend the day in green, in bars and intoxicated, many waking up at dawn to tap the keg for early apartment parties that could last through the day.

On Wednesday, more than 23,000 had indicated on Facebook that they would "attend" the event, more than last year's 17,000. Police say it's hard to gauge what the actual attendance will be, but Champaign Sgt. Scott Friedlein says law enforcement agencies are preparing as they have for past events.

Unofficial on the UI campus originated in 1996 as a way for bar owner Scott Cochrane to recover the income he would not receive on the actual St. Patrick's Day, which typically falls on UI students' spring break.

Since then, "it grew multiple legs, multiple arms, a couple heads and became a real monster for us," Friedlein said.

Police from several different agencies will increase their presence on campus, one of their perennial strategies in limiting the effects of a day's worth of binge drinking. Officers from local law enforcement agencies and the state police will be running special details throughout the day.

"We're going to be aggressive, there is no doubt," Friedlein said.

Illinois State Police Sgt. Bill Emery said his officers will have a "zero tolerance" policy for underage drinking on Friday.

UI police Lt. Skip Frost said it seems like there have been fewer disruptions to Friday classes during the past several years. UI police will have five to eight officers stationed near the Quad, he said.

In the past, students have tried to bring alcohol into classes and on some occasions have been removed for their behavior. Frost said the Assembly Hall security staff will be monitoring the larger lecture halls and will not allow students to bring in liquids.

"I think, this year, the plan represents all the things we've learned in the past," Frost said.

The officers aren't working for free: Last year, Champaign police clocked 252 hours of overtime, costing more than $10,000.

A state grant should help offset some of those costs this year, said Melissa Kearns of Community Elements, the lead agency on the grant that is being spread across several government agencies.

The grant has also helped fund an advertising campaign, Kearns said. Community Elements staff visited Campustown businesses this week to ask managers to post fliers instructing potential partiers on how they can stay out of trouble.

Police have also created a Facebook page, detailing ordinances and laws that may come into play on Friday, to counter the student-created page.

Mayor Jerry Schweighart, who also acts as the city's liquor commissioner, has issued a number of "emergency orders" designed to limit participants' abilities to drink. Among them: bars may not open before 11 a.m. and may not serve pitchers of beer or undiluted shots of hard liquor. Only patrons 21 years or older will be allowed entry.

Package liquor stores must require a customer sign an "adult responsibility form" before purchasing 168 or more 12-ounce containers of beer or malt beverage; 24 or more 1-liter bottles of distilled spirits; or one keg.

The mayor's office has also suspended its issuance of keg permits, making it illegal to possess more than one keg of beer per residence.

Champaign Lt. Brad Yohnka said last year's Unofficial St. Pat's event drew fewer notices to appear in court – 269, down from 351 in 2009.

Calls for police service were also down 55 percent, which allowed police to initiate 43 percent more contacts themselves. Yohnka said medical calls and injuries were fewer than in 2009, too.

Of course, Unofficial St. Patrick's Day in 2009 was 72 degrees and sunny. Last year, temperatures were in the mid-40s.

And rain is in the forecast for this Friday.

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DEB wrote on March 03, 2011 at 8:03 am

If fake St. Patrick's day is this bad, what is it going to be like during the real one? No longer is the real one during Spring Break, so bars get two chances to make sure students give them all their money.

welive wrote on March 03, 2011 at 8:03 am

I feel Unofficial is stupid,however it does create a lot of revenue for this area.Example they say 23000 people are going to attend Where do they all stay?Some with there friends where do they eat?And how much do they spend on little stuff when they get here?Almost every store you go in has a Unofficial shirt for sale.Yes we get it the cops and city overtime budget.
Champaign Lt. Brad Yohnka said last year's Unofficial St. Pat's event drew fewer notices to appear in court – 269, down from 351 in 2009.
They didnt make any $ from that did they?Thank you MR Jerry Schweighart,for making the bars 21 on that day.They should be 21 everyday.
And putting a limit on how much you can buy really dont help.FYI we already have 20 cases of beer in our frat house now not including all the gallons of vodka and whiskey.And thats just a start we will be buying all week long.
Do we remember when there was a Mardi Gras .on campus.I do wow we had fires in the middle of green st for like 3 years then slowly it was gone.Now there is UNOFFICIAL.

UIUCHoopFan wrote on March 03, 2011 at 9:03 am

Thank you for the information! Perhaps the History Channel can begin a new series titled "Hooch Hoarders" featuring your frat first. Sounds like the Dean of Students Office representative(s) for Fraternity and Sorority Affairs need to pay several visits to all in the Greek Council tomorrow. The 20 cases of beer and endless supply of hard liquor may result in the loss of your charter.

Drink 'til you're stupid!.....shouldn't take long.

UIUCHoopFan wrote on March 03, 2011 at 9:03 am

Just because a person is in college doesn't make them smart. I support the law enforcement communities in CU to cuff'em and stuff'em when warranted to do so!

welive wrote on March 03, 2011 at 10:03 am

make the call duse.Nice dukes of hazard quote Rosco P Coaltrain.Get em flash
cuff'em and stuff'em
And who says we are Greek?
And FYI Danville,Rantoul,Paxton, dont have a limit and very close to town we have a truck coming back now ye ha.

cats kradle wrote on March 03, 2011 at 11:03 am

He says you're greek because you said you had all that booze in your "frat" house. Since you toss around that term without apparently knowing what it means I'm guessing that you're not really a UI college student and probably not a college student anywhere. Do the UI police and local court system a favor and stay home this year. We've got enough drunks to worry about.

welive wrote on March 03, 2011 at 12:03 pm

FYI not all houses or that term is not always a greek thing could be latino?And Besides who really cares?And you are right i am not a student nor am i going to attend,however as a city we have to say yes to this is a foolish thing look at the revenue it brings in.Look at Daytona beach Panama City they love it when its spring break right.And when you say do the courts a favor and stay home.How is that a favor they wont make any $$$$$$$$$$$ if we all did that.So you if dont like it don't go on campus.And whats the difference in a biker poker run hry lets meet at a bar then go to 6 bars then finish at a bar thats real safe.And Police will give them a escort.

cats kradle wrote on March 03, 2011 at 1:03 pm

It's nothing against you if you're not a student. I'm just saying it because the town gets loaded with all kinds of people who come here only once a year for Unofficial and then they absolutely trash the place because they couldn't care less about it. And I don't know if the revenue we bring in from police citations during Unofficial is worth the risk of property damage, injuries, and even death that comes with the event. I'm all for letting people have a good time but come on, as if college students don't have enough opportunities to party.

dcaric692 wrote on March 03, 2011 at 11:03 am

Although we don't need more rain, I hope that we have lots of rain and thunderstorms tomorrow. Maybe bad weather will keep them in one place.
The last several years I have seen many throw up, fall and do stupid things just looking out my window at work.

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 03, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Following arrest, could photos with names of offenders be published in state wide newspapers including the offenders home newspaper? With the increase in arrests, and with all of the increased administrative work on bail; could bail be delayed until Monday? Would television coverage outside of Cochrane's bars be unconstitutional? The community is paying a large amount of money for increased law enforcement to protect the community, and the students themselves for the financial benefit of a bar owner.

UIUCHoopFan wrote on March 03, 2011 at 1:03 pm

What a wonderful idea! I would love to see remote webcams around campus so anyone, especially parents, could tune in to watch their children's activities around campus on this special day. The money brought in for this event only benefits a few. The overtime allocations spent on law enforcement, additional non-sworn security, clean up and damage repair far outweighs any benefits to a community annually infested with amateur power drinkers and the Girls Gone Wild bus.

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 03, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Realizing that some students see this as an annual rite of passage, I would encourage them to get permanent shamrock tattoos with "Unoffical" under the shamrock. If they were visible tattoos, they might find some others with similar shamrock tattoos in the future. It would be an opportunity to meet new friends.

TheKracken wrote on March 07, 2011 at 1:03 pm

It’s too bad that so much of the young talent at U of I has allowed themselves to be played by a local bar shenanigans. It seems the hype of such an event has caused students to protect a holiday that makes them appear foolish. I used to participate in this event heavily many years ago and am now on the other side of the coin (due to embarrassments). It was disappointing to drive down green street and witness students portraying themselves in such an unclassy way. The news Saturday night announced the fatality of a 21 year old that was crossing a road (a fatality?). It’s embarrassing to see that this event causes annual deaths to university students (has anybody had a chance to think of this persons family and how they might feel about it?). Unofficial SPD is DEFINATELY not a stream of income for this community. It’s outrageous how much we have to pay our police force to protect the community for this type of situation. Tax dollars at work people, thanks a lot unofficial St. Patrick’s Day......