UNIVERSITY PARK – A town-gown initiative targeting the social media-orchestrated drinking holiday State Patty’s Day made significant gains, according to statistics from the weekend event. Police report a 37 percent drop in arrests and citations this year.
But a community-wide partnership agrees that much work still remains in eliminating an artificial holiday that triggers a rise in emergency room admissions, alcohol violations, vandalism and traffic while damaging the appeal and reputation of the community. State Patty’s Day 2013 took place Feb. 23; campus and town leaders, including students, are already brainstorming a strategy for 2014.
Penn State students played an integral role in the effort, backing key initiatives weakening the event and rallying classmates to have a positive impact on their campus and community. Students produced and distributed via social media an anti-State Patty’s Day video, and the Interfraternity Council banned parties on State Patty’s Day for a second year. Students also spearheaded abundant alcohol-free activities, including the State Day of Service, which resulted in 295 volunteers lending a combined 696 hours of community service at various sites, as well as free ice-skating at Greenberg Ice Pavilion and a casino night at the HUB-Robeson Center.
Police from State College and the University reported 247 arrests and citations this year compared to 394 in 2012. As during other years, many of the arrests involved out-of-town students. From Friday to Sunday, Mount Nittany Medical Center reported treating 50 patients suffering alcohol overdoses – down from 72 in 2012, a 31 percent decline.
Downtown State College became an alcohol-free zone Feb. 23 thanks to the owners of 34 establishments who agreed to neither serve nor sell alcohol, with some venues opting to close their doors for the day. Also, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board closed wine and spirits stores in the region on Friday evening and all day Saturday.
The Partnership: Campus & Community United Against Dangerous Drinking distributed a $167,500 subsidy among 34 establishments in exchange for an agreement to forego the sale or service of alcohol on State Patty’s Day. For more than a decade, The Partnership has brought together community leaders, including students, to combat high-risk drinking. Most of the subsidy funding came from net parking revenues produced on campus during previous State Patty’s Day weekends. None of the funds derived from tuition, state appropriations or gift dollars to the University.
“I especially want to commend the work of the student leaders who embraced the idea of an alcohol free zone,” said Courtney Lennartz, president of the University Park Undergraduate Association. “By taking the steps necessary to limit social functions, providing alternative activities and educating the student body of the possible ramifications of this weekend, students were able to make this year’s State Patty’s Day weekend a safer place for everyone.”
The resulting alcohol-free zone allowed law enforcement agencies to deploy their assets to a narrower strata of the community, primarily areas dominated by apartment complexes and rental homes. Local landlords also were credited with increased vigilance this year, with more of them banning parties and reporting out-of-control gatherings, according to law enforcement officials.
“An unprecedented amount of cooperation went into this year’s efforts, making our community a much safer place on State Patty’s Day,” said State College Police Chief Tom King. “It is vital that we build on this year’s collaboration and continue to employ innovative approaches, like the alcohol-free zone and other strategies, until State Patty’s Day is no longer a day each year of destructive behavior.”