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.”
Hoboken revelers dumped beer and a planter on firefighters responding to reports of a blaze. Overall, 296 summonses were issued for such infractions as public urination and open containers.
In Albany, bar owners are being asked to consider shutting two hours earlier next year than the traditional 4 a.m. closing on the morning of the parade.
The request comes after hundreds of inebriated college students staged what police described as a riot just before the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 12.
People tossed furniture and appliances off balconies into the streets, smashed windows and trashed cars. Some revelers threw bottles at police, slightly injuring at least two officers, authorities said.
At least 40 students were charged with rioting, assaulting police and other crimes. Prosecutors vowed to use students’ cell phone videos of the violence, some of which were posted on YouTube, to build cases against them.
In New York City, where the St. Patrick’s Day parade is held on the March 17 holiday, years of alcohol-related problems have been brought under control with a zero-tolerance policy toward open containers and a high visibility police effort to enforce it, said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
Confiscation teams patrol the parade and Central Park, and any alcoholic beverages will be seized at the parade and from passengers on mass transit heading to the celebration.
Additional reporting by Zach Howard, Alexandra Ulmer and Bernd Debusmann Jr.; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune