St. Patrick's Day has become an all-day celebration for all people Irish, and not Irish. It's a day of revelry and drinking, and local law enforcement is preparing for the upcoming holiday weekend, which for them starts Friday, with extra patrols on hand.
St. Patrick's Day is Saturday, but the Harford County Sheriff's Office considers that the holiday will last from 6 p.m. Friday until at least 5:59 a.m. on Sunday.
According to a sheriff's office news release, deputies will conduct increased highway patrols throughout the weekend, along with participating in a countywide traffic safety task force, which is a combined effort for several local law enforcement agencies.
"St. Patrick's Day is one of the most widely celebrated saint's days in the world, but all too often it shares that great distinction with a far lesser one – too many people are driving drunk and killing or maiming themselves and others on the road as a result," Sheriff Jesse Bane stated in the news release.
The Bel Air Barrack of the Maryland State Police is preparing as well with operation "Don't Press Your Luck." Troopers patrolling will focus on speeding, reckless driving, following too closely, drivers without seat belts and people driving under the influence this weekend, state police said.
Troopers will also be paying particular attention to high crash areas in Harford, including Route 1, Routes 24 and 924, Route 22 and Route 543 and Route 40, according to a state police news release.
Three outdoor events — at Dark Horse Saloon, Looney's and Sean Bolan's — have been approved in Bel Air by the Harford County Liquor Control Board, board Administrator Kathryn Thess said. Sean Bolan's request is pending approval by the town of Bel Air.
Thess said earlier this week she does not expect any issues, noting none of those popular venues have had any previous St. Patrick's Day liquor law violations.
"It's just business as usual... The liquor board has never seen problems," Thess said, adding she does not expect a Saturday St. Patrick's Day to be out of the ordinary, and it could actually be less wild than if the holiday falls on a weekday
"People aren't coming from work or taking off of work," she said. "It's actually less [people] all at once."
Thess said all alcoholic beverage licensees have been reminded to keep up with the capacity code, as the State Fire Marshal's Office had expressed concerns that crowds were not being accurately counted at large events.
"We did send out an e-mail reminder," she said.
With a high concentration of popular drinking spots, Bel Air Police are also preparing for the holiday weekend with extra patrols and are working with Looney's and Dark Horse with regard to their outside services, Police Chief Leo Matrangola wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.
Looney's music will stop at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Dark Horse has until 10 p.m. Saturday, the only night they will have their tent open, Matrangola added.
Both locations will be able to serve alcohol until 2 a.m., he wrote, per the Harford County Liquor Control Board's approval. There will be extra patrols, including Main Street foot patrols and drunk driver saturation patrols from Thursday through Saturday until 3 a.m., according to Matrangola.
"No problems were experienced last year and we are looking for the same this year," the chief added.
Officer Jeff Gilpin, of the Havre de Grace Police Department, said the city will have additional officers patrolling both today and Saturday night on foot downtown, as well as extra officers driving around and doing DUI enforcement.
"Officers will just be looking for impaired drivers on the roadway," Gilpin said.
Gilpin said he does not expect any real problems because St. Patrick's Day is on a weekend, and said the city has not seen violations on the holiday in the past.
"We are not really anticipating more issues than normal because it's on the weekend. We actually have pretty responsible citizens and guests that come here," he said. "People have usually been pretty responsible on St. Patrick's Day."
Lt. Fred Budnick, of the Aberdeen Police Department, also said he did not expect his department to be doing anything different from a normal year.
"I think there's some extra patrols, some DUI saturation," Budnick said, explaining more patrol cars would be watching for drunk drivers. Aberdeen police will not have extra officers on foot, he said.
Budnick said he doesn't believe St. Patrick's Day is different from any other holiday and could not recall any specific problems that took place on March 17.
"Nothing sticks in my mind," he said. "I can't say we are any more concerned [about it]."