SJ police gear up for Fat Tuesday celebration

February 24, 2009 1:55:51 PM PST
San Jose's Fat Tuesday celebrations may have been slimmed down in recent years but police are still preparing for Mardi Gras partiers to show up downtown tonight and are placing up to 100 officers in the area, a police spokesman said.

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It has been years since downtown San Jose has offered an organized Mardi Gras event. Rick Jensen, communications director for the San Jose Downtown Business Association, said violence and raucous behavior by crowds prompted business owners to agree not to organize a celebration.

Things have calmed down since then, Jensen said.

"We agreed not to have an organized event," Jensen said. "There has been virtually no violence since."

Businesses may be more crowded than usual, but large parties are a thing of the past, he stressed.

"It's just a slightly more busy night," Jensen said. "Purposely and properly, the bar owners keep it a low-key night."

Gordon Biersch restaurant manager Sean McKennan said no special events are lined up at the restaurant but that he hopes to see an increase in business.

"We don't have anything planned on the book, (but) typically in the past there has been a good amount of people that come downtown," he said.

McKennan said he has seen people causing problems on Fat Tuesday before, but that the restaurant has not had any issues.

San Jose police Officer Jermaine Thomas said police don't expect this year's celebration to be particularly eventful.

"We do get a few people out there that have had too much to drink or start fights," Thomas said. "Those are things that we're trying to alleviate."

Nearly 200 officers will be patrolling the city tonight, with 80-100 officers concentrated downtown, Thomas said.

Thomas said people milling around the streets tend to be more disruptive than those celebrating inside bars and clubs.

"We found just in the past there's been problems people coming to the downtown area and causing problems, and a lot of problems stem for alcohol," he said.

Forty people were arrested last year on Mardi Gras, slightly down from 41 the previous year, Thomas said. Seven of the 2008 arrests were for felonies, as were 16 of the 2007 arrests.

Twenty-two juveniles were taken into custody last year for curfew violations, something police will be looking out for tonight, according to Thomas.

Children 15 and under are required to be in by 10 p.m. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds can be out until 11:30 p.m., Thomas said.

"We definitely will be enforcing curfew violations," he said.

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