Police, U of I, Discuss Strategy for ‘Unofficial’
By Jeff Bossert
As University of Illinois students and guests prepare for Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, local police hope more of them choose to celebrate in a responsible manner.
Many of the preparations for this year’s Unofficial are the same as year, including having 115 additional officers doing foot patrols around Campustown bars and private parties.
But Champaign Police Lieutenant Jim Clark said a lot of students responded well to the ‘Walk as One” campaign launched last week by the Champaign Community Coalition, in which officers knocked on nearly 3,000 doors, teling students that if they drink, to drink responsibly.
As the focus on ‘Unofficial’ shifts largely to the parties, he said many of those hosting them have gotten the message to keep things small, and only allow invited guests. But Clark said last year, some of those parties got out of hand.
“Our message in that case is, if you’re hosting a party and have people show to the party that you don’t want there, as them to leave," he said. "If they won’t leave, call the police, we will remove them.”
Clark said if a party host calls the police about unwanted guests before the police are called, then that person will not be prosecuted.
Other new strategies this year include messages on social media that remind people about the dangers associated with binge drinking.
According to U of I Vice Chancellor Renee Romano, typically 60-to-65 percent of those arrested on campus during 'Unofficial' come from other universities. She said officials on other campuses will be contacted.
"So we hope that students from other areas get the message that they're not anonymous in Champaign-Urbana for this event," Romano said.
Champaign Police spokeswoman Rene Dunn said her staff will not be releasing regulary reports of arrests this year, but will put out those numbers to media a few days later.
Both Champaign and Urbana have issued emergency orders, limiting sales of alcohol at bars during the morning hours this Friday and Saturday.