What police say was action to keep their town from being ransacked by 10,000 teenagers on Easter break has some Salt Lake teens and their parents angry.
Between last Thursday and Sunday, St. George police, Iron County deputy sheriffs and Utah Highway Patrol troopers made 199 alcohol-related arrests, issued 238 traffic citations while responding to 564 incidents, according to St. George Police Chief John R. Pollei.They also made 14 drunken-driving arrests.
"The kids coming to St. George during Easter make it just like Fort Lauderdale, (Fla.)," he said.
According to Pollei, most of those cited were high school students from Wasatch Front communities. The teens clog sidewalks particularly from 6th East to 8th East on St. George Boulevard and cause bumper-to-bumper traffic along the street.
Bonnie Bettinger, who was visiting St. George with her family, believes the city was just generating money and indiscriminately fined teens during the break. She also finds police tactics such as driving motorcycles through sidewalk crowds distasteful.
She said her son, John, a sophomore at Cottonwood High School, walked around a parked car on St. George Boulevard and was immediately given a citation for "blocking the roadway."
He said he wasn't present when police told the teenagers that stepping off the curb during the weekend was against the law. Pollei said he believes the repeated verbal warning most of the youths heard was enough.
Bettinger's friend was hauled into the county courthouse in a panel truck because his contact lenses made his eyes look dilated, he said.
After 45 minutes and a negative test result for alcohol he was released without a citation. Other youths were fined for loitering while talking to friends on the boulevard's sidewalk.
"They told us they did it because they didn't want us to tear up their buildings," said John Bettinger.
John Bettinger went to a special Saturday court session and was told he would have to appear in court on May 11 or pay $25.
"They were down there collecting money and they knew they could get away with it," said Bonnie Bettinger. "They had the court session because they knew they wouldn't get the money otherwise."
Pollei said the extra police protection and special court session actually cost the city $3,000. The teenagers also drive adult tourists and their dollars away, he said.
"These people don't understand. When this town is inundated with 10,000 youths, it creates a lot of problems. We are responsible to keep this town in one piece," Pollei said.
He said parents should not allow their children to come to St. George unattended.
He said, "The bottom of it is parents. Parents should take responsibility instead of turning kids loose."