State Patty's Day Keeps Police, EMS and Medical Center Busy
February 24, 2018 5:54 PM
by Geoff Rushton
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Rain didn't dampen State Patty's Day on Saturday, or the problems that come with the student-created drinking holiday.

State College Police Capt. Chris Fishel said on Saturday afternoon that the need for police and emergency medical service activity seems to be greater than a year ago.

"Worse than last year, not as bad as a couple years ago though," Fishel said.

The extent of police and emergency response associated with the weekend won't be known until State College and Penn State police, Centre LifeLink EMS and Mount Nittany Medical Center tally the numbers early next week.

Last year, State College Police made arrests or issued citations in 143 cases and responded to 471 calls between noon on Friday and noon on Sunday of State Patty's weekend. Centre LifeLink EMS responded to 95 calls during that period in 2017 and the medical center had 53-alcohol related cases. 

Though the numbers have fluctuated over the years, overall they've been down since State Patty's was at its worst in 2011 when police received 656 calls for service and 367 crime reports, and made 337 arrests.

This year, the activity had already begun by Thursday, when three people were cited for furnishing alcohol to minors. Early Friday morning, a 24-year-old was found lying outside an apartment complex parking garage after having fallen 15-feet. Police said the fall was accidental and alcohol was involved. The man, a Penn State alumnus visiting for the weekend, was in serious condition after being transported to UPMC-Altoona's trauma center with a closed head injury.

The State College Police incident report log from Friday night through early Saturday morning showed multiple incidents of underage drinking, public urination, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, noise violations and three more furnishing cases.

On Saturday afternoon, alcohol overdoses and house and apartment parties were causing the biggest problems.

Fishel said that at about 4 p.m. there was a 10-minute wait for ambulances.

"Unfortunately, what that will do is people who are having heart attacks or other events are being delayed also because of the poor decisions of people who are doing other things," he said.

As Fishel talked with reporters, he listened to police radio through an ear piece and said the calls for service were constant.

"Right now on the radio they’re asking for people to help with ambulance calls, which means that’s when folks are having alcohol overdoses," he said. "This one is lying on the street with a head wound. They fell. So the officers will get there but it will take awhile for the ambulance to get there because they’re maxed out.

"The drinking’s been going on since this morning, and now people are being hospitalized for it."

As in past years, State College and Penn State police had mutual aid assistance from all other Centre County law enforcement, state police, Liquor Control Enforcement and Centre Region Code Enforcement.

Officers were busy breaking up large house and apartment parties that sometimes had hundreds of people and were causing a disturbance. Fishel said the trend has been for large numbers of people to start on the west side of town and move east throughout the day.

"It happened last year but not to this degree, but it’s still not as bad as a few years ago," he said.

Police had not, so far, had any problems with fraternity houses. Penn State's Interfraternity Council said earlier this week that each of its member chapters had agreed not to host social events with alcohol this weekend.

The fraternities' decision was one of several actions taken in the days leading up to this weekend to try to curtail some of the problems. University and borough officials sent a letter to businesses that serve alcohol asking them not to have State Patty's-themed specials and they asked owners and management of downtown rental properties to help keep things under control as well. State College and Penn State police sent a letter to downtown student residents with advice on staying safe and warnings of consequences for legal and student conduct violations.

How effective those measures were remains to be seen.

In 2017, activity seemed to peak around 1 p.m., Fishel said,, but that appeared to have been delayed by a few hours this year. He explained that State Patty's is in some ways the opposite of a football weekend, when police are largely dealing with traffic issues during the day and are much busier at night.

During State Patty's Day weekend, the trend has been for police to be busier in the daytime hours.

"The last couple years it’s been not as busy at night, but who knows what it will be tonight," Fishel said.

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