Our View | Stay the course in efforts to control State Patty’s Day

Efforts to mitigate the negative impact of State Patty’s Day showed signs of success in 2013.

With the 2014 event looming March 1, this is not the time to become complacent.

Many downtown State College taverns closed on State Patty’s weekend a year ago, and were paid $5,000 each for doing so.

Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for student affairs, told the Centre Daily Times the university and State College borough will offer financial incentives again.

However, this year those payment amounts will be tiered “to more accurately account for the differences among the vendors,” Sims said.

That’s a good decision. Some tavern owners have said they thought smaller venues made out on the $5,000 payments to all sites a year ago.

“We remain convinced that the full package of initiatives in play last year was successful and merits repeating this year,” Sims said. “… We hope to secure the agreement of all or most of the owners who cashed checks from us last year.”

Tavern owners say they will not close as a group; rather, each establishment’s ownership will make an independent decision.

Some will be open, some plan to close and others had not yet decided.

We hope they curtail alcohol sales in some manner, because we don’t want to see a return to the level of problems experienced during the event’s heyday from 2009 through 2012, when jail cells and the emergency room were filled with partiers who took their fun too far.

State College Police Chief Tom King noted a 40 percent drop in arrests last year from 2012, with fewer incidents of vandalism, assaults and threats. DUI arrests on the party weekend went from 14 in 2012 to three last year, although emergency-room visits increased slightly.

King and others say a varied approach has been successful.

Police will beef up patrols in the downtown, and are working with apartment owners to curtail gatherings there.

Many apartment owners helped by declaring a “no party” weekend and are enforcing that rule, including with the threat of fines on tenants.

Code enforcement officers check occupation levels in apartments, while police will be busy writing parking tickets from Feb. 28 through March 1.

“We continue to be very aggressive,” King said.

Letters were sent to other campuses across Pennsylvania, urging them to keep their students home. As we’ve reported in the past, out-of-town revelers make up as many as half of the individuals arrested on these weekends.

Penn State fraternities and sororities have pledged a no-party weekend, while the university is cracking down on outside visitors staying in dormitories.

Student groups will hold community service outings as alternatives to the excessive binge drinking that State Patty’s represents.

Area state liquor stores were closed on the event weekend last year, and will be asked to do so again.

Those driving the effort to rein in State Patty’s Day say the success in 2013 is tied to downtown taverns being closed or at least not selling alcohol.

Local taverns work hard to keep underage customers from buying alcohol and to avoid selling to individuals who are already intoxicated. That must be an even higher priority on State Patty’s Day weekend for bars that remain open.

If there were no alcohol overdoses, no acts of vandalism or incidents of public urination, if people would just behave themselves, State Patty’s Day would not be seen in such a negative light and many could enjoy the event or benefit from its popularity.

But historically, this has been anything but a positive weekend for our community.

That’s why it’s important that everyone keep up the fight.