New York State Park Police Announce Major Initiative to Combat Illegal Alcohol Use at Saratoga Spa State Park

Multi Agency Effort Will Target Drunk Driving, Underage Drinking

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (06/02/2010)(readMedia)-- The New York State Park Police in cooperation with the New York State Police, the Department of Motor Vehicles Division of Field Investigations (DFI), the Department of Transportation, the Saratoga County District Attorney and the City of Saratoga Springs Police Department have joined forces to crack down on illegal alcohol-related activities at and around Saratoga Spa State Park during the upcoming Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) Live Nation concert series.

"While we certainly want all concert-goers to fully enjoy the wonderful concert venue Saratoga Spa State Park provides, illegal alcohol use at and around our park will not be tolerated," said Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash. "I am confident that this multi-agency initiative will keep patrons safer and enhance the overall experience that the spectacular SPAC concert venue provides."

"While we all look forward to the special opportunities for outdoor fun that summer provides, we must always remember that drinking and driving shatters lives," said Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner and Chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee David J. Swarts. "It is our sincere hope that the coordinated efforts of so many agencies will encourage those attending concerts in Saratoga this season to make smart choices and avoid risky behaviors such as underage drinking or drinking and driving."

"DCJS is proud to partner with the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee to provide the Park Police and their colleagues at agencies across New York with state-of-the-art equipment to detect illegal alcohol use," DCJS Acting Commissioner Sean M. Byrne said. "This joint effort will help ensure the safety of SPAC patrons, as well as those who drive – and ride – the roads this summer, in the Capital Region and beyond."

Saratoga County District Attorney Jim Murphy said, "I look forward to working closely with the New York State Park Police and all the law enforcement agencies to assure that SPAC concert-goers enjoy a safe experience this summer. Those who disrupt concerts, picnics and other events at the park with under-age drinking and illegal drug use or possession will be prosecuted by my Office to the fullest extent of the law."

NYS Police Captain John McCarthy said, "The New York State Police is acutely aware of the dangers associated with driving while intoxicated and underage drinking. We will be working in conjunction with the NYS Park Police to impact these activities in and around concerts at SPAC this summer. We will be vigorously enforcing NYS Vehicle and Traffic laws in the area before, during and after concerts, with a particular focus on alcohol-related and other aggressive driving behaviors."

"Having a very good understanding of the consequences and problems associated with overconsumption of alcohol and the use of alcohol by minors, the Saratoga Springs Police Department applauds the efforts of the NYS Park Police and pledges its support in keeping the area surrounding the Spa State Park a safe environment for both concert-goers and the general public," said Chief Christopher J. Cole of the Saratoga Springs Police Department.

No Alcohol in the Park

"Concert-goers need to be aware that the park, including the parking areas, is an alcohol-free zone and law enforcement agents will be stepping up efforts to enforce the law," said Chief Richard O'Donnell, New York State Park Police Director of Law Enforcement, who emphasized that alcohol is restricted on park grounds before, during or after concerts.

O'Donnell also reminded parents that it's against the law for adults, even parents, to purchase or supply alcohol to minor children.

Under the plans outlined today at a news conference at the park, uniformed and plainclothes police officers and investigators will be looking for violations of the law and taking strong enforcement action which will include making arrests, issuing tickets, impounding vehicles, confiscating and discarding alcoholic beverages and ejecting violators from the park and concert venue. As part of that effort, passive alcohol screening devices (Alco-Sensor FSTs ) will be used to detect alcohol in unmarked containers. The plans will be in effect starting with the June 4-5 Dave Matthews Band concerts.

The state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), through a three-year grant from the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee totaling $570,000, is providing every police department and sheriff's office in the state, as well as Probation Departments and the Division of Parole, with Alco-Sensor FSTs. This is the second year of the grant, with 500 devices being purchased during each of the three years. Each agency will receive between one and five devices, depending on the size of the department.

According to O'Donnell, there will be particular attention paid to underage drinking with Department of Motor Vehicles Division of Field Investigations and police officers equipped with instruments designed to detect alterations to identification documents on site looking for underage people using fake IDs. Possession of fraudulent driver licenses or other documents issued by government agencies is a serious offense that can lead to arrest, prosecution and loss of driving privileges.

Inside the SPAC venue, a bracelet is required to purchase alcohol. Bracelets are obtained by showing legal ID at one of the ID stations set up inside the facility.

Although alcohol is available for adult purchase within the SPAC grounds, O'Donnell strongly urged responsible consumption. State Police and the city of Saratoga Spa Police will be monitoring roadways and entry points to screen motorists for possession of alcoholic beverages and intoxicated driving. Intoxicated drivers will be immediately arrested and their vehicles may be impounded.

Parking and Operational Changes Will Be In Effect

Park officials also announced a series of parking and operational changes that will be in effect for the 2010 SPAC concert series. Gates to the SPAC parking lots on Route 50 open at 4:00 p.m. for both Friday and Saturday performances. Gates to the amphitheater open at 5:30 p.m.

Parking is available at numerous lots throughout Saratoga Spa State Park for a $10 fee. Patrons are encouraged to car pool. Parking in the Park is easily accessible from all four major entrances to the Park off Route 9 and Route 50. Concert-goers are strongly encouraged to plan for traffic congestion heading into the park.

The public is also reminded that state parks are Carry In – Carry Out facilities. Patrons should take responsibility for removing their own litter, should not bring any glass containers into the park as these present a hazard to patrons and an unnecessary, costly and time intensive project to sweep broken glass.

Young People at SPAC Concerts

The Route 50 entrance to SPAC is the best place to drop off ticket holders starting at 5:30. The entrance by the Sun Dial off the Route 50 parking lot will be accessible starting at 10 pm for those returning to pick up concert goers.

Ash also announced an agency partnership with the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Council of Saratoga County, Inc. The nonprofit, community-based organization will be working with OPRHP to educate parents on how to keep their kids safe during the summer.

Heather Kisselback, Executive Director of the Prevention Council, said, "Such a visible and cohesive rejection of the idea that underage drinking is acceptable goes a long way towards changing the norms in the community as a whole."

The Prevention Council Offered the following Tips for Parents about Keeping Kids Safe during the Concert Season

  • Make sure your child has a ticket to the concert. Hanging around outside the venue or attempting to "jump the fence" are very risky alternatives.
  • Do not drop your teen off at the venue hours before a concert begins. Allowing teens to "hang out" before a concert leaves them vulnerable to dangerous situations and unwanted consequences. This time frame may also offer too much temptation for risky behaviors.
  • Communicate your expectations about underage drinking. Research shows that kids are less likely to drink if parents set boundaries, voice clear no-use expectations, and hold regular discussions about alcohol. Communicating your disapproval of underage drinking is the most effective thing you can do to prevent it.
  • As with anything your teen does outside the home, know who he or she will be with. Ask questions and follow through if you sense any red flags.
  • Be awake – or awakened – to greet your teen when he or she gets home from a concert. Let your nose be your guide about whether any drinking or smoking took place.
  • If your teen is going to spend the night with a friend following the concert, confirm with parents that the sleepover is planned, and that they will be awake when the teens arrive.