CHAMPAIGN – A look at the unofficial numbers of scofflaws for Unofficial St. Patrick's Day suggests that many University of Illinois students apparently don't want to let go of the 15-year tradition of getting plowed on a school day.
As of 3 a.m. Saturday, police reported that there had been 328 notices to appear in court issued during the bacchanal that has become – for police, parents and university administrators – the most dreaded annual event on the UI campus.
Police were unable to say if a 21-year-old University of Illinois student clinging to life at an Urbana hospital late Saturday may have taken part in the festivities before crossing a busy street against a traffic signal and being struck by two vehicles.
"We went in with a mind-set to do what we could to keep these kids safe. From my standpoint, they started early and they went longer," said Champaign police Sgt. Scott Friedlein, the department's alcohol enforcement officer.
In 2010, there were 269 notices to appear issued; in 2009, the number was 351.
"Last year, we were pretty much done by midnight. (This year) we were out all the way up to bar closing (2 a.m.)," he said, adding that a chilly rain that started in the early evening did little to deter the partying.
It seemed to have the effect of creating longer lines at campus bars as revelers who had been outside much of the day sought shelter, he said. Friedlein said there weren't any problems at the bars different from any other typical weekend. Police planned to have a bigger than normal show of force on Saturday night as well.
Of the 328 NTAs issued, about 120 went to UIUC students.
The tickets were for such city ordinance violations as adults allowing minors to drink, minors in possession of alcohol, the purchase of too many kegs, open alcohol, public possession of alcohol, sale of alcohol to minors, throwing objects from balconies, fighting and resisting a peace officer. One NTA was issued for each of the following offenses: possession of cannabis, possession of drug paraphernalia, battery, public urination, loud noise, littering and unlawful use of ID.
Coming in a distant second for the college with a high number of offenders was Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal with 17, followed by Parkland College in Champaign with nine. The offenders came from about 58 different institutions of higher education, three high schools and numerous cities, most of them in Illinois.
There were also students from Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Colorado.
There were four arrests for violations of state laws – possession of cannabis and theft. Friedlein said the final tally is sure to push all those numbers higher. He said one young person was arrested on a state charge of being a minor in possession on the "three strikes and you're out" rule. The person was cited three times for the same offense during the day.
"We call them slow learners," Friedlein said.
One of the more alarming statistics involved the number of partyers taken to local hospitals because they were suffering from alcohol intoxication, an injury sustained while drunk, or were passed out. Accurate numbers were not available, but it exceeded 20.
"When we see kids in the 0.30 percent range (for blood-alcohol concentration), they start experiencing medical issues. When I see a kid passed out, I'm pretty confident he's at 0.30 or higher," Friedlein said.
Under Illinois law, a motorist is presumed intoxicated with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent.
Federal regulations regarding the privacy of medical records preclude officers from finding out how drunk the drunkest at the hospitals were.
Friedlein said he personally went on two medical calls, one in which a young man could answer questions about where he was, so he was not taken to a hospital, and another who couldn't, so he was.
"When they don't or can't communicate, that's where the real danger is," he said.