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Police Working Overtime to Enforce Laws Over State Patty's Day Weekend

by on March 01, 2014 7:10 AM

State College Police Chief Thomas King says all borough police officers will be working 12-hour shifts this weekend, which is State Patty's Day weekend – a student-created event that promotes binge drinking.

"We're ready from an enforcement standpoint," King says. "We'll be concentrating wherever the crowds are. Tomorrow (Saturday) we are expecting most crowds will be in private residences. Fortunately, downtown bars will not be serving alcohol, so we will be able to deploy officers where needed and not be spread so thin."

Penn State University officers will team up with borough officers and together the agencies will patrol and work details downtown and in residential areas where partiers gather.

Nearly every downtown establishment will not serve alcohol on Saturday. Instead, owners have opted to accept Penn State's cash offer in exchange for no alcohol sales. Spat's Café, a restaurant downtown, still plans to serve alcohol with meals.

Other law enforcement will also assist the borough, including neighboring police departments, Pennsylvania State Police, Liquor Control Enforcement officers, code enforcement officers, and the Centre County Alcohol Task Force, which consists of police officers from throughout the county.

The task force will be conducting DUI details as well as enforce other alcohol-related offenses.

"There will be a zero tolerance approach to all alcohol and drug related crimes, so rest assured if you drive impaired you will get arrested," says Ferguson Township Police Sgt. Ryan L. Hendrick, coordinator for the Centre County Alcohol Task Force. "Officers' primary assignment is to look for impaired drivers, but again will have a zero tolerance approach for any other alcohol or drug-related incidents that they happen to witness while on DUI patrol."

According to the Mount Nittany Medical Center, during the 2013 State Patty's Day weekend, the emergency room saw 49 patients for alcohol-related events, the average alcohol level was 0.28, and the average age was 20. The hospital says 22 of the 49 patients were Penn State students.

Officials say the ultimate goal is to make downtown unattractive to revelers and put an end to State Patty's Day.

In 2007, Penn State students created State Patty's Day as an alternative drinking celebration after learning St. Patrick's Day fell during spring break. Since then, the event has created alcohol-related mayhem downtown.

For the second year in a row, Penn State offered cash to downtown businesses in exchange for a ban on alcohol sales on State Patty's Day. University, law enforcement and borough officials say an alcohol-free zone significantly contributed to a decrease in crime during last year's event.

Last year, the university paid $5,000 each to downtown bars and restaurants in exchange for an alcohol-free day. This year, the university is offering a four-tier compensation system to individual establishments based on occupancy levels ranging between $2,500 and $7,500.

In 2013, the university used funds from revenues in campus parking operations on previous State Patty's Days to cover the incentive. This year, funds will likely again come from parking revenues.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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