Daily Egyptian

City to see increased police presence during Solar Bear weekend

A police officer directs traffic outside The Reserve at Saluki Pointe on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in order to allow students to cross the road while leaving Solar Bear festivities. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

A police officer directs traffic outside The Reserve at Saluki Pointe on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in order to allow students to cross the road while leaving Solar Bear festivities. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Francois Gatimu

Campus and city officials are joining forces to prepare for Solar Bear, the annual mass student party event that marks the first weekend of the fall semester.

The unsanctioned city-wide festivities will begin Saturday. The last few years have seen an increase in police presence for the weekend, and this year will be no different, said Amber Ronketto, a sergeant at the Carbondale Police Department.

Ronketto said the Carbondale Police Department will have extra patrols around spots known to draw Solar Bear revelers, but she would not specify how many extra officers would be on duty.

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The extra patrols are there to ensure Solar Bear doesn’t get out of hand, she said.

“Ideally we wouldn’t have this party at all,” Ronketto said. “That would be the biggest deterrent to people behaving badly.”

Ronketto said the police department lacks preventative measures to “keep people from being stupid.”

“We would hope that people don’t get pepper-sprayed anywhere but that is not up to us,” Ronketto said, referring to a Solar Bear incident in 2015 in which Carbondale police officers pepper-sprayed a crowd after partiers threw bottles and cans at the law enforcement officials.

She said citations were issued for various offenses last year, including underage drinking and public urination.

Students typically drink all day at private residences or apartments before heading to the bars as night falls, said Pinch Penny Pub owner James Karayiannis, who started the back-to-school celebration about six years ago at students’ request.

Though Solar Bear started at Pinch, it eventually spread to apartment complexes and other areas around the city, particularly Aspen Court Apartments.

Notices have been posted this year around the Aspen complex informing tenants the grassy area between apartment buildings P and Q will be fenced off. No large crowds, DJ’s, loud music or rooftop gatherings will be tolerated and violators of city ordinances could face citations from police, the fliers warn.

“Anytime you put that many people that are 21 years old drinking together, there are things that are just not going to work out great,” Karayiannis said of the 2015 incidents.

Wellness and Health Promotional Services had a table set up at the north entrance of the Student Center on Wednesday to provide students with water and information about alcohol and drug use in anticipation of the weekend. 

Lori Stettler, the university’s interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said the university encourages students to have fun but take precautions to ensure their health and safety.

“Stay together, hydrate and make sure that you eat,” Stettler said.  

Staff writer Francois Gatimu can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @frankDE28.

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