Police say several factors could have kept arrest numbers down this St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Butte, but they’re giving a lot of credit to the people who took in the festivities.
That goes for everyone — those from Butte and those who were just visiting Uptown.
“They were well-behaved,” Butte-Silver Bow Undersheriff George Skuletich said Monday. “I mean, 99.9 percent of the people who come up are coming up for a good time, and that is what they have.”
Officers were ready for more trouble, especially because St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday. But the 23 arrests they made from 7 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday were barely above normal.
“For a long weekend we average 19 or 20 arrests and this was only 23,” Skuletich said. Seven were for DUI, three for not leaving an area when told to by police.
In 2005, police arrested 50 people on St. Patrick’s Day alone in Butte, and that was on a Thursday. There were 90 arrests in 2007. There were 36 last year, when the Irish holiday fell on a Friday.
The vast majority of arrests this weekend were for misdemeanor offenses, including three “simple assaults” in which nobody was badly hurt. There are usually a couple of felony assaults tied to St. Patrick’s Day drinking here, Skuletich said.
Not this time.
One man was arrested at St. James Healthcare for throwing a pill bottle at an employee. One took a swing at an Uptown bartender, and the other punched a guy he thought was assaulting his friend. Turns out the man was only trying to help his drunk friend walk down the street, police said.
“There were no serious issues, no vandalism that has been reported as of yet,” Skuletich said. “We had one felony and that was for possession of dangerous drugs.”
Three people were arrested for “failure to disperse,” a misdemeanor offense for not leaving an area after being asked by police.
Two were young men who refused to leave the Party Palace at Park and Main streets Saturday night so police were called and escorted them out. When police asked them to leave the area, one refused and one took off running.
Both were booked for failure to disperse and the one who ran was also arrested for resisting arrest. Like most others, they bonded out before Monday.
Seven people were arrested for drunken driving from Friday night through Sunday morning, six by the Montana Highway Patrol and one from Butte police. Three or four is the norm for a weekend, Skuletich said.
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But the Highway Patrol made several more Thursday night into early Friday morning and later Sunday as well.
There were additional troopers in Butte over four days as part of a Safety Enforcement Traffic Team that beefs up patrols at various places around the state during events associated with alcohol use.
Troopers made 17 DUI arrests in the Butte area during the four-day period, according to Capt. Gary Becker, the patrol’s District 3 commander in Butte. That’s up two from the St. Patrick’s Day period last year, he said.
Having the extra patrols in Butte for St. Patrick’s just makes sense, he said.
“They have parties going on all over the state but Butte historically has been a bigger, more publicized party,” Becker said. “You get the college kids on spring break coming in, and historically, Butte has been a big place to be.”
Troopers made 328 traffic stops here during the four-day period, issued 605 warnings, wrote 102 citations for seat belt violations and cited 23 people for driving on suspended licenses.
But troopers weren’t dispatched to any crashes, Becker said.
Although the Butte jail was over capacity, the count had been thinned to a manageable 90 by Friday, Skuletich said. Like normal weekends, many people were released shortly after they were booked or when they sobered up.
Skuletich said several other factors could have led to a relatively calm weekend, including the weather.
“I think by 6 at night (Saturday), the wind was blowing pretty good and temperatures were in the 20s with a little bit of snow and I think that helped thin the crowd earlier than normal,” he said.
At least two Uptown bars, including the Party Palace, closed a little earlier than normal early Sunday morning, he said.
When the bars were opened, police responded to at least two incidents of “people tipping over,” Skuletich said. He means that literally.
“There was one fellow that we had who fell off a bar stool and became unconscious as a result of 12 hours of drinking,” he said.