For many of the 100,000 people expected to celebrate Picnic Day in Davis this weekend, the real fun begins Saturday night, when students and alumni traditionally host parties and gatherings in residences around town.
Those events don’t always have happy endings, however, and the Davis Police Department is ratcheting up its workforce this weekend to make sure things don’t get out of control.
As many as 14 officers will be on duty Saturday night just to respond to party calls, and at least 15 officers will be patrolling the streets for drunk drivers. All told, nearly 40 officers will be on the job Saturday to keep the public safe, said Davis Police Sgt. Scott Smith.
Authorities are particularly concerned about out-of-towners with no connection to UC Davis who come to take advantage of the festive atmosphere. Strangers from West Sacramento, Woodland, Vacaville and as far away as Fairfield often travel to Davis looking for parties to crash, Smith said.
“There’s an element that comes into town just looking for trouble,” Smith said. “These are random people who show up unannounced and uninvited.“
In a recent case, a victim invited several unknown males into a party. When she stepped outside for a cigarette, she saw the suspects running through the parking lot with her Guitar Hero equipment and other valuables. Three men from Woodland were eventually arrested in the incident.
College students in Davis are often easy targets for people coming from more urban environments, Smith said, and partygoers often find themselves missing cameras, iPods and laptops after inviting strangers inside.
“It’s sort of viewed as basically a no-holds-barred spring break type party atmosphere,” he said.
Smith said party hosts should call police if they have problems with uninvited guests, instead of trying to deal with it themselves.
“We’re more than happy to come out and shut the party down,” he said. “It’s an easy way to solve the confrontation … We’re going to do our best to not cite or anything like that – we just want to help everybody through.“
Smith also recommended that party hosts designate a “sober host” who can manage any emergencies or other serious situations where police may need to be involved.
“It’s a whole lot easier for us to work with a sober party host than a bunch of drunk ones,” he said.
That advice was echoed by Cindy Valencia, a health educator with UC Davis Student Health Services.
“Be careful who you’re letting in the door and make sure you’re not serving clearly intoxicated guests,” Valencia said.
Once they come into your party, you become liable for them, she said.
Tips on hosting and enjoying a safe party are online at safeparty.ucdavis.edu. The site includes information on the legal obligations of party hosts and partygoers, and has special information related to Picnic Day.
Valencia said that by far the most important step to take on Picnic Day is to make sure everyone has a designated driver.
“This person can also be the person that’s going to respond to an emergency if there’s a problem,” she said.
Designated drivers will be particularly important Saturday night, when a DUI task force known as AVOID the 8 will be out patrolling for drunk drivers.
Traffic cops will be out in full force targeting drunk drivers in and around the city of Davis from 8 p.m. on Saturday to 2 a.m. on Sunday, said Davis Police Sgt. Ton Phan.
The task force is made up of officers from California Highway Patrol, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and the police departments of Davis, West Sacramento, Winters, Woodland and UC Davis.
Already, 15 officers from local agencies have agreed to be part of the Saturday saturation. Anyone who witnesses a drunk driver should call 9-1-1 immediately, Phan said.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.