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Police prepare for Unofficial party

Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
(AP Photo/The News-Gazette, Robert K. O'Daniell)
In this March 2012, file photo, students at the University of Illinois gather at a house on campus during the “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day” celebration in Champaign. Champaign police say they’re gearing up for this year’s festivities Friday, which are expected to draw thousands of students for a day of drinking.

CHAMPAIGN (AP) – Champaign police are gearing up for the annual Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day celebration, officials said.

Law enforcement officials are preparing up for this weekend’s festivities, which are expected to draw thousands of students for a day of drinking, The Champaign News-Gazette reported.

Champaign Police Lt. Jim Clark said investigators have been monitoring social media sites to get an idea of the scale of this year’s crowds.

“We’ve seen more people on Facebook this year saying they’re coming to the event,” he said.

Clark said authorities are predicting large crowds, despite efforts in previous years to curtail underage drinking and violence. This year, the city is limiting bar hours and how much alcohol can be sold near campus. They’re also limiting the entry age for people to get into bars, which they have done in previous years.

Last year, authorities knocked on 4,000 doors to distribute information about how to stay safe during the festivities. Still, there were hundreds of arrests, mostly for underage drinking.

“I’m not sure underage drinking is ever going away,” Clark said.

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