Savannah St. Pat's finds crowds, DUI arrests, potty problems

SAVANNAH -- At least 60 people were arrested over St. Patrick's Day weekend by officers from police departments across the state who were deployed throughout Chatham County, officials said.

From Friday morning to Saturday night, at least 23 people were booked into the Chatham County jail on suspicion of drunken driving, and at least 16 were under 30 years old, according to the jail log.

In other pre-St. Patrick's Day developments city workers trucked in extra portable toilets to handle the humanity on River Street, and a police escort was necessary to get them there.

Tybee Island's St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday afternoon - three days in advance of the observed holiday - drew one of the largest crowds ever for an island event.

As for the traffic crackdown, Port Wentworth Police Capt. Matt Libby said up to 40 officers from Port Wentworth; Barrow, Clayton, Douglas and Paulding counties; Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic units, and the Valdosta and Winder police departments descended upon Port Wentworth streets looking for drunken drivers.

Although the number of drunken-driving citations issued was not available, 47 people were arrested on various drug- and alcohol-related offenses from 3 p.m. Friday to 3:30 a.m. Saturday, Libby said.

Known as "Operation Thunderstorm," the initiative resulted in an average of four citations an hour. It is an offshoot of the statewide "Operation Rolling Thunder" campaigns periodically organized in specific areas to crack down on speeding, DUI and other moving-traffic violations.

"We started out with checkpoints and then kept moving throughout the night," Libby said. "It was a wide smorgasbord of drinking and alcohol-related offenses."

In total, 110 drivers were cited for various other offenses, he said.

Libby said he agreed the numbers were high despite heavy media warnings about the operation, but he said that's what he expected.

Savannah-Chatham police conducted a special detail to combat drunken driving, setting up several roadblocks around downtown, said department spokeswoman Judy Pal, who could not provide specific arrest numbers.

On Saturday night, at least 40 St. Patrick's Day celebrants downtown were arrested along River Street and in City Market. Of those suspects, 27 were transported to the Chatham County jail.

At least 12 people were arrested on suspicion of urinating in public, which could have been the result of portable toilets filling up by about 3:30 p.m.

Sometime before noon Saturday, city workers helped replace 20 portable toilets used by St. Patrick's Day celebrants Friday night. By 4 p.m., they needed to be changed again, said city spokesman Bret Bell.

"Maybe this is a sign more people are heading down to River Street than expected," Bell said.

Pal said a barricade kept River Street revelers from relieving themselves in the Savannah River. In the past, some drunken celebrants trying to do so have fallen into the water, she said.

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