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Policing Unofficial St. Patrick's Day

CHAMPAIGN-- "We try to encourage them not to participate in unofficial, and if they choose to participate we encourage them to be responsible and obey the law," says Renee Romano, of the University's Office of Student Affairs.

At a press conference Tuesday in Champaign, representatives from several area police departments and the university discussed their approach to this weekend's unofficial St. Patrick's Day. Lieutenant Jim Clark of the Champaign Police Department says, "Our primary concern for unofficial this Friday is dealing with public safety. To that end we will have 115 additional police officers working on the University of Illinois campus and surrounding areas."

In addition to police officers from the University, Champaign, Urbana, and the Champaign County Sheriff's office, fire fighters will be on the lookout for overcrowded or unsafe buildings and balconies. Members of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission will be making sure that bars and restaurants are compliant with sales laws.

Clark says, "Unofficial is an event that is not sanctioned by the University of Illinois, or the cities of Champaign and Urbana. It is an event that has historically promoted underage drinking and the consumption of alcohol. Each year several participants are severely injured and/or killed." A zero-tollerance policy will be in effect for underage drinkers, but the university stressed there were some positives.

Still, the message was clear. Says Romano, "It is not a University event. We take it very seriously and are happy to be a part of this coalition and very much appreciate the dedication of all the people involved in this."

Adam Rife reporting