Champaign police receive grant to monitor Unofficial

By+Nathaniel+Lash+%7C+The+Daily+Illini%0A

By Nathaniel Lash | The Daily Illini

By Angelica Lavito

The Champaign Police Department will have help paying for law enforcement on Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, thanks to a grant.

The city made an agreement with Community Elements Inc. that will provide the Champaign Police Department with funds to pay for extra police officers on Unofficial, which will take place Friday.

Community Elements acquired a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services and worked with them to develop a strategy to use the money. The Champaign Police Department then created an agreement with Community Elements to determine how the money would be spent.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the strategies they have focus more on elementary-aged and middle-school-aged (education), so we were kind of limited on choosing what we could,” said Traci Hayward, Community Elements coordinator I of Community Prevention. “We ended up going more law enforcement because there wasn’t really anything else to choose from.”

The department does not always budget for Unofficial, Sgt. Joe Ketchem said, and uses money from different parts of the budget to pay for extra law enforcement.

The agreement will provide the Champaign Police Department with more than $5,900, specifically with Unofficial.  

Forecasts indicate a high of 43 degrees Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Ketchem said weather dictates the turnout for Unofficial.

“If we have weather on Friday that’s supposed to be (around) 50 degrees from what I understand, it’s usually a madhouse,” Ketchem said. “There will be parties all over the place, there will be intoxicated people at bars, people trying to get into the bars that aren’t supposed to.”

Ketchem said the most common problems on Unofficial are medical transports, possession of alcohol on public property, underage drinking and domestic battery.

“Basically, just be responsible,” Ketchem said. “If you’re going to have a party it’s one thing. But we get involved when parties get out of control and when there’s people who are 18 and 19 drinking.”

Ketchem will be patrolling on Unofficial, and Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, who is also the liquor commissioner, said he will be visiting the bars on his lunch break and after work “to see how things are going.”

“Take pride in our city. Take pride in our community. If you’re of the legal age, be responsible,” Gerard said. “Look out for your brothers and sisters, and if you see troublemakers, don’t stand for it.”

The agreement between the Champaign Police Department and Community Elements also provides funds for 38 compliance checks, hiring covert units and training two new Training for Intervention Procedures trainers.

Ketchem said his hope is to train 300 workers from liquor establishments through the class.

Angelica can be reached at [email protected]