Police urge responsible behavior on ‘Unofficial’

CHAMPAIGN – Local police are reminding students that they are expected to act responsibly on Friday and that they should call 911 if anyone needs help.

March 4 is Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, an event not sanctioned by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but which typically draws to campus a large influx of people not-affiliated with the university.

Representatives from the Champaign, Urbana and University of Illinois police departments on Wednesday acknowledged that, while they do not condone the event, they recognize that people do plan to participate and expect them to do so responsibly. Police said it appears the attention on Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day has diminished in recent years.

“It’s a delicate balance between aggressively trying to enforce the law and making it as safe as possible,” said U. of I. Police Capt. Matt Myrick. “The two are intertwined.”

Police want to remind students of the university’s Medical Amnesty and Good Samaritan procedures, which protect students from formal discipline if they call 911 when they or someone else needs help.

Other measures will also be in place to discourage irresponsible and illegal behavior – extra officers from five police departments will patrol the university district on Friday, and University Housing is prohibiting guests in residence halls during Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day.

In the past, up to 70 percent of people ticketed for various offenses on Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day had no affiliation with the university. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign notifies other schools when their students get in trouble in Champaign-Urbana.

“We have noticed in the past that we have seen a lot of our problems come from outside the university community,” Myrick said. “Our students generally know the rules and respect our campus and our community, so we prohibit the guests from staying overnight as a way to discourage people from the outside coming to campus.”

Police and university staff will be patrolling the main Quad and academic buildings, and they will be available to assist faculty if there are problems in classrooms.

“The point of that is to prevent any disruptions in the classroom,” Myrick said. “We fully expect that the academic activity and business of the university will carry on as normal on Friday as it has for the past few years.”