Mardi Gras 2007 marked the final year of San Luis Obispo City Council’s three-year plan to end the nationally known celebrations in the area.
This year’s Mardi Gras weekend saw a total of 57 citations and 31 arrests, including six students from Cal Poly and four from Cuesta College.
The number of arrests on Saturday and Tuesday night of Mardi Gras were less than the typical number of arrests for each night. The overall cost to taxpayers for the three-year campaign, which was meant to make Mardi Gras in San Luis Obispo a “non-event,” was over $2 million.
“It’s not just the damage or the injuries that cause problems from situations like 2004; stopping Mardi Gras also became a question of how you measure the value of community that surrounds a college,” said police Capt. Dan Blanke.
Police reported an 85 percent decrease in the total number of arrests made from 2004 to this last weekend.
Other than the San Luis Obispo Police Department, all officers were released early on both Friday and Saturday nights following early release plans that took effect at midnight due to a lack of activity in the community. Tuesday night also saw an early release plan with officers being relieved between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m.
This weekend had 120 law enforcement officials patrolling the streets beginning at 7 p.m., as opposed to the eight that are on staff on an average weekend night. The core group of officers came from San Luis Obispo Police Department, California Highway Patrol and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department. The San Luis Obispo Police Department also called upon University Police, Union Pacific Railroad Police, and officers from other cities within the county.
Out of the weekend’s 57 citations, 25 were traffic citations and 18 were for alcohol.
Scaled down from the previous two years, the police force only had one DUI traffic checkpoint near the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Chorro Street across from Bali’s Yogurt. The stop, which operated from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday, screened 676 drivers for signs of intoxication, conducted seven field sobriety tests and made a single arrest.
“I don’t really think the DUI checkpoints are going to deter senseless people who drink and drive on a regular basis, but putting them out there makes people think about it and question themselves,” biological sciences senior Patrick Kelly said.
There has also been discussion on the effects that reinstating the Mardi Gras parade for 2008 would have.
“It appears from student and community member leaders that, due to the campaign and student turnover, the memory of 2004 is gone,” Blanke said. “As far as the parade goes, it would be a shame to run a parade too soon, we could restart the celebrations and potentially flush $2 million worth of taxpayer money down the toilet.”
Unlike past years, 2007’s city outreach plan did not have a slogan, but police officers still made the rounds by passing out door hangers in student housing complexes and talking with community leaders.
Three years after 2004’s riots, the San Luis Obispo Police Department has achieved its goal of significantly scaling down Mardi Gras celebrations.
“Cal Poly is known for being an amazing school, I don’t think Mardi Gras really hurt our reputation overall. No one is going to not come to school here because we party one weekend a year,” Kelly said.