Unofficial’s official numbers up from 2008

Aaron Facemire

Aaron Facemire

By Colleen Vest

Even though there were less violent acts during this year’s Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, authorities are saying they were busy this year. Police distributed 351 total notices to appear in court this year, compared to last year’s 199.

“I don’t think it was less of an event than previous years, even though some people are saying that,” said Lt. Skip Frost of the University Police Department. Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney, said the weather caused more people to be outside, which may have caused more public possession notices to be issued.

“It was busy, extremely busy,” Finney said. “People wanted to be outside. People wanted to be out on the balconies, and that produced quite a problem for us.”

Incidents connected to balconies were reported throughout the day and night, Frost said.

“We had calls about a lot of things coming off balconies: TVs, beds, couches and things like that,” Finney said. “As the day went on, we contacted the property owners to help control the parties.”

Final numbers of tickets and arrests in connection with Unofficial were calculated during the weekend and were released Monday: Police issued 351 notices to appear in court, made 15 arrests and reported 22 vehicle code violations, according to the University.

Vehicle code violations are for being intoxicated while walking in the road, driving without a license, driving without insurance, driving the wrong way on a one way street and other things.

In 2008, police issued 199 notices to appear and made one arrest, said Sgt. Scott Friedlein of the Champaign Police Department.

“If you put more officers out there, you will get more tickets,” Finney said. “We put out 100 officers, and we wrote 400 tickets.”

Of the 351 notices to appear, 143 were for a minor in possession, 129 were for public possession, 11 were for sale to a minor and seven were for public urination. Of the 15 arrests, three were for driving under the influence.

Of those citations, 35.3 percent were issued to University students, said Rene Dunn, spokeswoman for the Champaign Police Department.

Students from 52 colleges and universities were represented from 12 states and two high schools had students involved in Unofficial, Finney said. When a person is ticketed, they are asked what institution they attend.

One bar was issued a citation for selling to a minor, Friedlein said.

Robin Kaler, spokeswoman for the University, said the weekend and the resulting garbage in the street was shameful.

“It was certainly disruptive and destructive,” Kaler said. “(Green Street) looks like a Third World country, even (Monday) morning.”

Champaign police plan on addressing several issues before next year’s Unofficial, including the issue with multiple kegs, Finney said.

“We need to address the balcony issues,” Finney said. “That’s an area where we are going to see more injuries with people throwing things off, and obviously this year with the young man climbing balconies.”

Police focus this year’s efforts on parties

House and apartment parties were a priority for police this Unofficial, and those found in violation of the law faced arrest and hefty fines. Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney said those throwing large, open parties gave police the chance to legally enter their residences without a warrant.

“These houses throw themselves open to letting everyone and anyone in,” Finney said. “Anyone might be a police officer.”

Finney said that once the police get in and determine that people are selling alcohol or have multiple kegs, they can arrest the owner or resident.

“So have private parties – smaller, private parties,” Finney said. “And don’t charge. If we don’t see it, hear it or smell it, it’s probably not happening.”

Compiled by Rachel Small