Drunken St. Patrick's parades spark crackdown

Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:05am EDT
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Already reeling from some of the rowdiest St. Patrick's Day parades on record this year, officials in some U.S.cities vowed to curb violence by using tools as new as Twitter and as old as the calendar.

In Hoboken, New Jersey, where an out-of-control celebration on March 5 resulted in 34 arrests and reports of two sexual assaults, a fed-up Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said next year she would switch the traditional weekend parade to a weekday.

Scores of arrests and violence at parades in Albany, New York and Newport, Rhode Island are prompting police and city officials to rethink their approach as well. They said this year's parade violence is the worst they have seen to date.

Police in Newport, where a disorderly March 12 parade led to 95 arrests for everything from public drinking to weapons charges, figure they have the next 12 months to learn how to monitor social networking sites so they can anticipate crowds.

"It's the first time we heard of people coming to the parade because of Twitter," said Newport Police Lt. William Fitzgerald. "We're trying to get some ideas from our computer people about how social networking can assist us."

Hoboken's change to a weekday parade will mean fewer out-of-towners roaming parties where alcohol flows long before the parade begins, said Juan Melli, a mayoral spokesman.

Bar and restaurant owners are concerned the calendar change could mean lost revenue, but other businesses that were afraid to open on parade day were relieved, Melli said.

"A lot of people lose money that day," Melli said. "One business was broken into and they were basically partying in the store. They urinated in there and trashed it."   Continued...

<p>Revellers sit on a wall during the annual St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival, in central London, March 13, 2011. REUTERS/Paul Hackett</p>