STATE COLLEGE — Another year with no drinking at taverns or fraternity parties appears to have eroded the popularity of State Patty’s Day, plunging alcohol-fueled crime on the pseudo holiday to five-year lows, according to unofficial numbers released Monday.
Arrests and citations logged over the weekend were down 75 percent and total crime was down 63 percent from the student-created holiday’s heyday in 2011, according to preliminary data from State College police.
“That Mardi Gras kind of party center environment didn’t exist this year,” said Police Chief Tom King. “And I think it was the strategies by the town, the university, the apartment buildings, the bars and the businesses, and even the weather helped.”
Police responded to 381 calls for service, arrested or cited 102 people and sent 33 patients to Mount Nittany Medial Center in alcohol-related cases. The numbers are down across the board from 2013 and have been plunging for three years, the data shows.
Mount Nittany officials said the hospital treated 35 people in alcohol-related cases from Thursday to Saturday night. They had an average blood alcohol level of 0.248. The majority of them, 26, were Penn State students.
In 2013, the hospital dealt with more alcohol-related cases, 49, a higher average blood alcohol level, 0.284, and fewer students from Penn State.
Since State Patty’s Day was created in 2007 as an alternative to St. Patrick’s Day, which that year fell during Penn State’s spring break, authorities have said an influx of students from outside the area have helped make the weekend one of the busiest of the year.
“There were a lot of green shirts in town, including green shirts from other universities,” King said Monday. “Though there were a lot of green shirts, many of those people were walking around looking for some place to go, but didn’t easily find it. They weren’t out of control, generally speaking, like other years.”
King attributed the decline to “unusual, unique strategies” by the community, including financial incentives offered the past two years by Penn State to taverns, bottle shops and beer distributors that agreed to go dry on the student-created drinking holiday.
Penn State paid out $211,000 this year alone to 34 downtown establishments and five beer distributors.
“Many of the strategies we’ve used the last two years have made a huge difference,” King said. “The limitation on available alcohol on Saturday by the bars, liquor stories, distributors, bottle shops, that made a huge difference.”
King said the effect of taverns closing the past two years appears to have had a cumulative effect. He said there were fewer students traveling to the area this weekend to take part in the festivities.
“We saw a lot less numbers in town,” he said. “We know that from hotel reservations. We know that from parking numbers, from cars in town this weekend. It was down significantly.”
It didn’t lessen the police presence, though. King said officers cumulatively worked hundreds of hours of overtime, and he estimated the expense to the borough at about $10,000.
King said it’s too early to say whether this year was end of State Patty’s Day, but he encouraged the community to find an event that could replace it between the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon and spring break.
“I’m hopeful it’s an end to a day in which the only focus is people coming across Pennsylvania and the East Coast to engage in really nothing but dangerous drinking,” King said. “What I hope is now after this year, is the opening to finding something that could really be special for this community.”
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.