Officials are mopping up after an estimated 15,000 high school students invaded the southern Utah community over the Easter holiday weekend.

"We're taking a big, deep breath. It's nice today," said St. George Police Chief John R. Pollei, estimating that 50 percent more students visited St. George during spring break than the 10,000 that flocked south one year ago.Not even rain showers Saturday evening dampened the throng's spirits, Pollei said. "Kids just stood out in the rain and watched what was going on."

The weekend agenda for the teenage visitors was loose: soak up the sun, when there was some, and either cruise St. George Boulevard at night or stand on the sidewalk and watch the cruisers and other pedestrians.

Drinking was also on the party list for some of the students. Minors arrested for drinking accounted for 306 of 333 arrests made between 6 a.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Monday. "That's 96 percent," Pollei said. Of the 275 arrests last year, 199 were alcohol-related.

"We have case after case of beer. We'll be emptying the evidence room shortly because there's so much in there. We'll be taking it to the landfill and bulldozing it," he said.

A combined force of St. George officers and Utah Highway Patrol motorcycle officers, imported for the weekend from the Salt Lake area, wrote 321 citations and responded to 536 incidents over the weekend. There were also 48 accidents, including five DUI arrests, Pollei said.

The crowd was not only bigger this year but more widely dispersed, the chief said. A year ago an estimated 10,000 students were on the street at one time - all of them within a block of the Four Seasons Inn on St. George Boulevard. "This is the first year where they spread out more all along the boulevard."

Pollei said he is already working on expanding the police department's capabilities for handling next year's crowds by adding a second two-way radio frequency.

"Next year you may see some motels charging a large cash deposit before they'll allow (students) to rent the rooms," Pollei said. "There was quite a bit of damage done in motel rooms, but that happened a lot last year too."

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Teenage invasion

Police activity in St. George between 6 a.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Monday that accompanied the spring break weekend visit by an estimated 15,000 high school students. A combined force of St. George police and Utah Highway Patrol officers dealt with:

- 321 traffic citations

- 333 misdemeanor arrests, including 306 juvenile arrests for alcohol violations

- 5 DUI accident arrests

- 48 traffic accidents