Cops brace for St. Patrick’s Day

Even as the Chico City Council addresses once again what some view as the recurring horror of Halloween in Chico, St. Patrick’s Day comes staggering around the corner, ready to vomit-launch green beer onto the downtown sidewalks.

And, like an army hunkered down for the attack, the Chico Police Department is preparing for the annual early morning drinkfest, which this year falls on a Sunday.

Noting that the celebration now rivals Halloween in size and scope, the department has announced increased police staffing will be rolled out Friday evening, March 15.

That backup will come from regional police agencies, including the Glenn County Sheriff’s Department, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department, the California Highway Patrol, the California State Parks and the Gridley Police Department, Chico Police Sgt. Linda Dye announced in a press release.

The cops, she said, will focus on alcohol-related violations, including minors in possession and open-container violations. Until a year or so ago, you had to be caught consuming on the sidewalks or in a parking lot to get popped; now mere possession of an open alcoholic beverage gets you a ticket. And, of course, the police will be looking for displays of public drunkenness.

Agents from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control will be entering bars to look for illegal alcohol sales to minors and underage customers trying to pass fake IDs. Plus, the ordinance banning glass bottles on the downtown streets will be hauled out of storage and put into effect for the weekend holiday.

“We will be seeking voluntary compliance with the glass ban in the downtown and westside areas,” Dye said. “Last year there were 76 arrests between 5 p.m., March 16th, and 7 a.m., March 18th. This was a significant increase from years prior, with more than half those arrested listing an out-of-town address.”

As part of an effort to keep activities under control, most bars in the downtown and in the student areas to the west have agreed not to open until 10 a.m. In the past, it was traditional for many bars to open at the crack of dawn on St. Patrick’s Day to serve beer for breakfast.

Dye reports the department has seen an increase in alcohol-related arrests during the last several weeks. Friday, March 8, she said, saw a particularly busy night, with 20 arrests, 15 of which were alcohol-related.