Police urge responsibility on ‘Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day’

CHAMPAIGN — Police and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign officials held a joint press conference on Monday to urge responsibility on “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.” The overwhelming message: Be safe and responsible, and you should not have any problems.

That being said, police cautioned that there will be more than 100 officers from a number of law enforcement agencies on the street Friday.

“If you’re having a good time, and you’re doing so where your behavior doesn’t affect the safety of yourself or others, then I doubt that you’ll have any contact with the police,” said U. of I. Police Deputy Chief Skip Frost. “But if your behavior is such that you put yourself or someone else at great personal risk, then chances are, with the amount of resources we bring to bear, chances are you’re going to have a contact with a police officer and it’s not going to be a great thing.”

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano made it clear that Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day — which will take place March 6 — is not an event condoned or encouraged by the university. Still, university and police officials acknowledge that students will choose to participate.

Generally, about 60 to 70 percent of tickets go to people who are not affiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Our students are great,” Frost said. “They know what to expect from us. We know what to expect from them, and for the most part, they abide by that.”

But every year, out-of-town attendees cause problems.

“Don’t invite that person that you know is going to come to this event and cause, not only you, but themselves and the community trouble,” Frost said.

Champaign Police Lt. Jim Clark had advice for people who choose to participate. The first tip: Keep the party small, and limit it only to invited guests who the hosts know to be older than 21 years old.

“It’s pretty simple, actually. We ask them to keep the party small. Treat it like a Super Bowl party if you’re going to have a party,” Clark said. “There are a lot of Super Bowl parties around campus during the Super Bowl, yet we have very little problems.”

Hosts of parties where people under 21 years old are drinking alcohol could face state charges under Illinois’ social host law and can be taken to jail.

Balconies are also a major concern, Clark said. Overcrowded balconies can collapse, and people are routinely injured while attempting to climb from one balcony to the next. People who throw objects from balconies can also face fines.

Romano said university officials intend to address “bad behavior” on Unofficial through law enforcement and the student discipline process. Her office also intends to send the names of people who are caught breaking the rules but who are not affiliated with the University to their institutions.

That being said, Romano said students who take the appropriate action to contact authorities when they or someone else needs help are protected by the university’s Medical Amnesty and Good Samaritan procedures — they will not get in trouble if they contact authorities to help themselves or another person.

“We want students to know that if they need help, they should call,” Romano said. “They should call the police, they should call 911.”

Last year, 44 people ended up in the hospital for medical issues. Police said people who choose to participate should pace themselves. They can also visit hydration stations on campus to make sure they get the water they’ll need.

“It’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Frost said. “Take the opportunity to eat, to rest, to hydrate. If you are going to partake in the event, don’t let your behavior get you into a spot that’s going to cause you academic, financial or legal troubles.”

As long as participants follow those guidelines, he said, they shouldn’t have any issues.

“Our focus is safety, first and foremost,” Frost said. “We are not out there as police agencies to ruin anybody’s good time.”