COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Get out and shake your shamrocks with tens of thousands of people this weekend for the 37th annual St. Pat’s in Five Points celebration.
It’s one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day events in the southeast, which is cause for lots of excitement but also some concerns for safety.
This year, the festival is expected to draw some 45,000 people to enjoy live music and other activities. Columbia Police say they’ll be partnering with other law enforcement officials to make sure people are celebrating responsibly.
Over the last three years, there have been an average of 50 arrests on the day of this event.
Most of these arrests involve nonviolent crimes like disorderly conduct or minors in possession of alcohol, and it’s not just CPD making the arrests.
Just last year, there were almost people 80 arrested. According to Columbia Police, half of those arrests were for minors in possession of beer – on behalf of SLED agents.
Columbia Police Deputy Chief Melron Kelly says there will be plenty of law enforcement officers to help keep everyone safe, but he also says we, as the public, have a role to play, too.
“We also encourage people to be responsible. Many of the arrests that we make are non-custodial; however, they still are criminal charges," Kelly said. “If you’re not of the age to drink, just don’t drink and if you don’t have a reason to be at a bar – if you’re underage - don’t go in. We have officers out in uniform and in plain clothes, out checking to make sure that people are being safe. Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t make the right decisions and they get arrested for those.”
Kelly also says law enforcement will focus on safety precautions not just at the festival, but as you travel to and from the festival, as well.
“We will be out in force. We’ll have officers placed throughout the festival," Kelly said. We’ll also have officers up high, just to look down and make sure everything is safe. Just out of an abundance of caution, we encourage everyone to come out and have a good time, but to do it in a safe manner – specifically checking our bars for different regulations. We’ll work with Highway Patrol as people are leaving the area. So, don’t be surprised if you see a stepped-up level of enforcement on your highways and main thoroughfares as you leave the festival. We just highly encourage responsible driving, ride sharing, and taxi cabs as you travel back-and-forth to the festival."
CPD officials say they’re looking forward to a safe and successful St. Patrick’s Day weekend.