Although Fake Patty’s Day has likely been distinguished by debauchery since it began in 2007, the day of revelry became especially raucous in 2011.
That year, police received 766 service calls, according to an August 2011 City Commission memo — a 65 percent increase over the number they received the year before, and according to a March 2012 article by WIBW, seven times the usual daily number of calls. “RCPD issued more citations on March 12, 2011 than on any other single date of the last three years,” the memo stated.
College students probably didn’t get any crazier between 2007 and 2011. In fact, according to a study by the University of Michigan, binge drinking by American students declined each of those five years. So what suddenly propelled 2011’s Fake Patty’s Day to new heights of mayhem?
The memo itself offers a possible answer. It boasts several “proactive” responses collaborated on by numerous organizations and agencies “for the first time” in 2011. The actions newly taken by the RPCD included closing down Moro Street beginning at 7 a.m., maintaining heavy police foot patrols in Aggieville and roping off parking spaces in City Park at a total cost of just under $26,000.
This blunt attempt to suffocate the day’s merriment may have backfired. By discouraging Aggieville patrons with a bureaucratic blockade, the city made it less appealing to journey to local bars and more appealing to settle for less credible house parties. Instead of partying under the supervision of certified servers and watchful police, many students partied with stockpiles of store-bought liquor and their townie neighbors for company.
I’m not the first person to propose this theory. The 2011 Student Governing Association seems to have made exactly the same connection. They included in their notes the statement, “The event is going to happen. It will spill into the neighborhoods more if Aggieville is locked down.”
The City Commission went on to consider an array of new, even more heavy-handed measures. These included putting snow fencing around the entire district, quintupling fines for overcrowding and possibly revoking the licenses of bars that continue to permit overcrowding.
In 2012, police fielded 746 calls, 20 fewer than in 2011. To put it mildly, last year’s police invasion of Aggieville does not seem to have helped substantially. In the above-mentioned article from wibw.com, the director of the RCPD said he generally considered the effort a success, noting that calls for service were down 1.8 percent from 2011.
Other numbers were even less impressive. The article reported that there were 86 arrests — up from 46 the previous year. Additionally, a pedestrian was struck by a car, and paramedics responded to 77 calls. The average blood alcohol level of their patients was more than four times the legal limit. Moreover, 51 of the 77 calls came from outside of Aggieville.
Police succeeded in making Aggieville a safer place, but it was safer because many students weren’t there. They were at home, getting alcohol poisoning. Fake Patty’s Day, in truth, has more to do with the color green and binge drinking than any one physical location. In Aggieville, local businesses offer an opportunity to lure it in and temper it. The city government would be wise to take advantage of that opportunity. By continuing to make Aggieville look like the Korean Demilitarized Zone, they only displace and exaggerate the costs.
Ian Huyett is a senior in political science and anthropology. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.