A record low 32 arrests over the holiday weekend showed that students know Mardi Gras in San Luis Obispo is still over.
More than 350 law enforcement officers spent Mardi Gras weekend in San Luis Obispo to ensure there was no potential threat to public safety. About two-thirds of the officers were concentrated near the intersection of Foothill and California boulevards, with the remainder assigned to the downtown bar area.
“We are well on our way to accomplishing our mission,” said Deborah Linden, police chief of San Luis Obispo during the quiet Friday night.
Linden said the city looked at universities like California State University, Chico State to implement change and expects Mardi Gras to wind down completely within five years of the riot. She added that the rotating student population helps scale down events that have become out of control.
On the corner of California and Foothill Boulevards, police spent both evenings working the crosswalk lights to keep students from creating traffic hazards.
“A small minority ruined it for everyone else,” said Sgt. Sam Sarmiento, with California State University Police. Sarmiento also worked during the 2004 riot.
Dave Romero, mayor of San Luis Obispo, called Mardi Gras “meek and mild” early Saturday evening. Romero also said that the city plans to scale down police presence at Mardi Gras over the next few years, and the cost to the city will be lower next year. He added that ending concern over the event would spread the wrong message to the community if done too soon.
Projections for the total cost will not be available for several weeks. One cost that will not be added to the city’s bill was the additional law enforcement present throughout the city this weekend.
“Outside agencies were not paid for by the city,” said Kim Walker, SLOPD’s public information officer for Mardi Gras. “They represent a co-operational effort by neighboring and state agencies.”
City Manager Ken Hampian commented late Saturday evening that it will take closer to two years rather than the projected four years to end Mardi Gras.
By midnight on Saturday, all law enforcement other than San Luis Obispo police were released from duty.