UI Police prepare for Unofficial

 

 

By Stephanie Gomes

Green beer, drinking before noon and drunken students stumbling through campus. This may sound like an exhilarating Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day to University students, but to local police officers, this behavior poses various safety threats.

“We’re not overly concerned about the event any more than we have been in years past,” said Lt. Skip Frost of the University Police Department. “The number one key is everyone’s safety, and a close second is maintaining the academic integrity of the institution.”

It is not a good idea to consume alcohol and go to class, he added. The University is prepared to deal harshly with people who are caught intoxicated in classrooms.

“We will have plenty of officers on duty to take care of any type of situations we might encounter,” said Lt. Roy Acree of the University Police Department. “It’s going to be difficult to walk on the Quad without seeing a uniformed officer.”

There will also be a police officer on every street corner, and extra officers in student housing, he added.

“We thought it went fairly well last year considering the number of intoxicated people we had to deal with,” Acree said. “Since we started putting more officers on the Quad and other security people in the buildings, it seems like we have been able to control the number of intoxicated people who are coming into the classrooms.”

Acree said Unofficial is a huge drain on emergency resources, such as the police departments, fire departments, ambulance crews and hospitals.

“Quite frankly, the ambulances have better things they could be doing other than responding to intoxicated students,” Acree said.

The hospital emergency rooms get backed up, and people with more serious injuries and illnesses are forced to wait, he added. It is an expensive day for the police department as well.

The University police services cost over $18,000 last Unofficial, Acree said.

The increasing numbers of people participating in Unofficial remains another problem.

“Last year, we had 47 different schools represented both in citations and criminal arrests,” Frost said. “That’s just people we came across, I’m sure there were hundreds of schools here.”

Many students coming from other schools do not respect the University and often cause the most problems after consuming alcohol, Frost said. The Office of the Dean of Students will be providing information on these arrests to the offenders’ schools.

Acree said all the police departments have a unified command system on Unofficial.

Sgt. Scott Friedlein, of the Champaign Police Department said bar checks will be conducted.

“We did a significant number of walk-throughs last year,” Friedlein said. “If an arrest is made, it is because attention is being drawn to that individual based on their own conduct.”

Similar checks of private parties would also be conducted, Friedlein added. The state police will be aiding community police in law enforcement for the weekend.

“It’s a joint operation,” he said.

Pat Connolly, assistant chief of police of the Urbana Police Department, said additional meetings are taking place this week for all emergency personnel in the community.

“We are solidifying job assignments,” he said. “First and foremost, we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

He added that he hopes the event does not draw a huge crowd of people.

“Hopefully our kids will keep the visitors under control,” he said.

Connolly said he hopes he can keep Urbana quiet.

“A lot of people ask why the University isn’t doing something about (Unofficial),” said Frost. “This is not a University issue; this is a city business issue.”

For changes to happen, the city council and city government must act, he said.

“This city council is very, very hesitant to limit anything regarding commerce,” Frost said.

Frost added that the police understand the event is enjoyable for students, but stressed that students must know their limits.

“Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint,” he said.

The University police have also prepared for the event by giving presentations to the Panhellenic and the Interfraternity councils, Frost said.

Meetings were held with law enforcement agencies, 911 services, the fire departments, the chancellor’s office and city government.

“We’re ready,” Frost said. “The day will come and it will pass.”