Police try to ensure safety on Unofficial

Center, Sgt. Scott Freidlein discusses with other undercover local and state police officers, on the corner of 2nd and Green Streets in Champaign, on what to do with a suspect who had been arrested inside of Station 211 bar for spitting on an undercover o ME Online

Beck Diefenbach

Center, Sgt. Scott Freidlein discusses with other undercover local and state police officers, on the corner of 2nd and Green Streets in Champaign, on what to do with a suspect who had been arrested inside of Station 211 bar for spitting on an undercover o ME Online

By Katie O'Connell

“Unofficial will never die,” shouted a student walking on the bridge that connects The Tower at Third, formerly known as Presidential Towers, to its parking lot.

Sgt. Bill Emery of the Illinois State Police department looked up and shook his head.

“Yeah, but you will,” he said. “And that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

Surrounded by students in green T-shirts, some of whom could barely walk and showed clear signs of intoxication, several police departments began checking Campustown bars for underage drinkers. Station 211, 211 E. Green St., was the first location police entered.

It was only 1:30 p.m.

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The City of Champaign Police Department, the Illinois State Police, University Police, Parkland College Police and an officer from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office combined forces to tighten restrictions on the amount of binge drinking that occurs during Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day. “Hopefully it keeps kids safe, that’s what it’s all about,” Sgt. Scott Friedlein of the Champaign Police Department said.

At a press conference held prior to bar checks, Emery said the easiest way for officers to find underage drinkers would be to enter the bar with their badges covered and look for those who give a “deer in the headlights” look once the badge was revealed.

“It doesn’t matter what time you go in there, you’re going to get something,” Emery said. “We’re not doing this to get at the kids … we’re doing this for safety.”

According to a press release from the Champaign Police Department, 39 notices to appear for city violations had been given by 6:30 p.m., most of them liquor violations such as minors in possession and open alcohol. These were issued primarily at private parties, while bar checks and street sweep details produced an additional 42 notices to appear, with eight locations being checked.

Also, by 6:30 p.m. there had been three criminal arrests for battery.

Total numbers for the “holiday” will not be available until sometime Monday.

Within minutes of entering Station 211, undercover officers begin escorting underage drinkers to the Illinois State Police van parked down the street. One of the officers says to Sgt. Friedlein that the person he was escorting doesn’t have identification.

“No ID? How’d he get in?” Friedlein said. “On a day like today you know bars are carding tight.”

A female was then escorted out of Station 211 by two officers with her hands cuffed behind her back. She was followed out of the bar by one of her friends, who carried with her the girl’s ID, purse and cell phone.

The friend, however, was unsuccessful in handing over the items as her friend was being put into the containment area of the Illinois State Police van.

Her sister would later come out from the bar, holding the girls coat and wiping tears from her eyes.

Officers then told her that she could pick her sister up from jail, as she was being arrested for spitting on a police officer.

“If I could have a hope and desire, it would be not to arrest anyone underage for drinking and no DUIs,” Emery said. “I know that may be a false hope, but that’s what I’d like to see.”