Tight control, tamer holiday

By Eric Anderson

Red and blue flashing lights cut through the green-streaked streets as Sgt. Joan Fiesta of the University Police Department sped to an apartment party Friday. Reports said a beer can hurled from the apartment had struck a passerby in the head. Fiesta was one of several officers who responded to the scene.

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Red and blue flashing lights cut through the green-streaked streets as Sgt. Joan Fiesta of the University Police Department sped to an apartment party Friday.

Reports said a beer can hurled from the apartment had struck a passerby in the head. Fiesta was one of several officers who responded to the scene.

Within 45 minutes, the apartment’s Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day celebrants had dispersed.

The man who had thrown the beer can was prowling the bushes and picking up his trash. No one was hurt.

The quick, fluid neutralizing of the incident was the trend of what some called a tamer Unofficial.

“(Unofficial) came in like a tsunami on the coastline and when the tsunami hit the coast it broke like just any other wave,” said Champaign Deputy Mayor Michael La Due. “It was not an interesting or terribly entertaining weekend.”

Media attention gravitated to Kam’s and C.O. Daniel’s, which were closed for violating liquor ordinances.

C.O. Daniel’s violated a state-level happy hour law by selling an unlimited amount of alcohol for a fixed price.

“The reason for the closure had to do with existing law,” La Due said. “(The closing) wasn’t specific to Unofficial.” Kam’s was closed because a non-employee went behind the bar and served shots of hard alcohol.

“Since it occurred in front of an undercover person who was involved in the sale, it couldn’t be overlooked,” La Due said.

La Due added that the closings “struck a sober chord” with other liquor-licensed businesses, but were blown out of proportion by media.

“It was a sobering incident,” he said. “No pun intended, but it sure works for one.”

La Due said this year’s “uneventful” Unofficial might have begun to follow Drink Green and Halloween celebrations of the 1980s and 1990s to an eventual nonexistence.

“There was significantly less vandalism, there was less interpersonal violence, there was less inebriation,” La Due said. “It was not an atypical weekend in most respects.”

Despite an increase in drinking citations, University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said she agrees that Unofficial 2008 was docile.

“I think we are gaining some control of the event,” Kaler said. “We’re making it less fun.”

Kaler credits the visibility of police presence. Five different police organizations worked the event: University, Champaign, Urbana, County and State.

Police notched 199 drinking citations, 70 percent of which stung non-University students from 27 institutions. Kaler said “well over” 100 vehicles were towed.

Nevertheless, Fiesta said she could tell just by listening to the radio that it was Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.

“If you hear about intoxicated subjects that refuse to leave a bar, it’s probably Unofficial,” Fiesta said. “We don’t go, ‘Whoopee it’s Unofficial.'”

Although Unofficial shifts a spotlight on drinking and all things green, crimes such as sexual assaults are camouflaged by the holiday’s anonymity.

“You see a green streak running by, how do you find that?” Fiesta said.

Most sexual assaults involve alcohol, Fiesta added. But it is unclear whether Unofficial’s excess of alcohol correlates with a spike in sexual assaults.

Police worried that increased media coverage would attract statewide attention. “You don’t know what sort of goons say, ‘Hey, let’s go down to Champaign,'” Fiesta said.

To counter the influx of non-University students, Officer Eric Vogt, of the University Police Department, was stationed at the grouping of residence halls known as the Six Pack to enforce the ban on housing non-University students.

He said that non-University students who slipped by the ID-checking stations dashed for residence hall rooms.

“Once they get in the rooms there’s not much we can do,” Vogt said.

La Due said that media attention curbed rather than exacerbated the rowdiness of Unoffical festivities.

“I think all the media attention it got and all the University attention it got (tamed Unofficial),” La Due said. “It wasn’t all that much fun this year.”

Unofficial 2008 Statistics

  • 199 notices to appear in court issued

    (30 percent to University students)

  • 87 minors ticketed
  • 7 minors ticketed for open alcohol
  • 6 sales to a minor from private parties
  • 3 public urinations
  • 9 violations of pedestrian laws while drinking
  • 1 throwing object
  • 1 littering
  • 1 providing alcohol to minor
  • 72 public possessions of alcohol
  • 3 sales of kegs to minors
  • “Well over” 100 cars towed
  • 28 medical calls
  • 17 transportations to hospitals
  • 1 charge for possession of controlled substance

Source: Robin Kaler, University Spokeswoman

27 institutions represented during campus ‘holiday’

  • University of Illinois
  • Western Michigan University
  • Triton Community College
  • DePaul University
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Indiana University
  • Loyola University
  • Beloit College
  • Eastern Illinois University
  • Western Illinois University
  • Parkland College
  • Northern Illinois University
  • University of Ill. Chicago
  • Illinois State University
  • Illinois Weslyan University
  • Drake University
  • University of Michigan
  • Marquette University
  • University of Iowa
  • Morraine Valley Community College
  • Joliet Community College
  • Washington University
  • Purdue University
  • Wheaton College
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • Oakton Community College
  • Harold Washington Community College

Source: Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman