By Michael Garrett
State College police responded to 235 calls over Arts Fest weekend, representing a 37 percent increase over the 171 calls responded to during the 2013 Arts Fest, according to information provided by the State College Police Department.
Many incidents over the weekend were alcohol-related, including 30 violations involving minors. This number doubled from last year, when only 15 minors were cited for alcohol violations. Last year’s 10 cases of public drunkenness also increased to 14. While only 12 people required medical assistance for reasons related to alcohol last year, this number more than doubled to 25 this year.
Despite these alcohol-related increases, the total number of DUIs dropped from six to two, which is roughly a 66 percent decrease. Many minor violations – including citations for criminal mischief, trespassing and public urination – have also seen a decrease since last year.
The Centre County Alcohol Task Force, which includes authorities from the State College Borough and Ferguson and Patton Townships, also made five arrests for suspicion of drunken driving over the weekend. Authorities also issued four traffic violation citations, including once instance of driving with a suspended license.
Though police responded to more calls than last year, State College Police Lt. Chris Fishel says “without breaking down that number it can be misleading.” He says the total of 235 calls not only includes incidents to when police responded to an outside call, but also those where police initiated contact to intervene in a situation. He says this may be a sign of more “proactive” police work.
“If anything, this year may have been about equal to last year,” Fishel says.
Only one incident over the weekend resulted in felony charges, in which two New Jersey men were charged with aggravated assault after an alleged beating required the victim to be hospitalized with facial injuries. Four felonies were filed during last year’s Arts Fest.
Fishel says that, in his experience, Arts Fest during past years has been comparable to a Penn State football weekend early in the season, during which there are typically a fairly large number of incidents. Recent Arts Fest weekends now more closely resemble football weekends later in the season, representing an overall downward trend.
Despite the increase in calls between 2013 and 2014, this year’s total is still lower than 2012’s total of 284 calls.
“This signals to us that our contingency planning is working,” Fishel says. He adds that assistance from other agencies, such as the Penn State police department, helped make this year’s influx of visitors manageable.
“The community has really been pitching in,” he says.