St. Patrick’s Day revelers who venture into downtown San Luis Obispo today will likely rub elbows with uniformed police officers. And if caught doing wrong, they’ll face steep penalties.
A maximum deployment of police officers will begin at 6 a.m. and continue through the night as the police department cracks down on what it says is a growing public nuisance of alcohol-related problems.
In April, the City Council voted unanimously to add St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween to the city’s safety enhancement zone ordinance.
That law allows the San Luis Obispo Police Department to double fines and charge up to $1,000 for antics such as nudity, public urination and possessing open containers of alcohol in public places.
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The ordinance stipulates that during those days, first offense violations will double to $700 from $350 and second offenses will increase to $1,000 from $700. A third offense within a year’s period is a $1,000 fine.
The ordinance took effect at midnight and will continue through 7 a.m. Friday.
Police Capt. Tom DePriest said St. Patrick’s Day has become one of the most notorious days for partying in the city. Last year, 29 people were arrested, mostly for public intoxication. That compares to six arrests on a busy Saturday night, he said.
“We will have uniformed officers out there as the lines form outside bars in the morning and keep a presence there all day long and into the night,” DePriest said.
Police officers will also be deployed in neighborhoods to address alcohol- and party-related violations.
The safety enhancement zone ordinance was first adopted in 2004 after a Mardi Gras celebration turned into a riot when a crowd of about 5,000 threw rocks and bottles at police. Nearly 200 people were arrested.
Since it was enacted, arrests have dropped significantly on that day and violations such as open containers, noise and urinating in public have all declined.
Officers on foot downtown will monitor people for signs of public intoxication and any rowdiness that isn’t appropriate, police say. The Police Department has also encouraged bar and restaurant owners to closely monitor the sobriety of their patrons and to turn away customers who appear intoxicated.
“We want people to be able to enjoy themselves,” DePriest said. “We also want them to be safe and stay within the law.”
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.