- A scene from last year's Mardi Gras. More photos here.
Changes made last year in the Missouri Legislature means that for the first time in recent memory, agents with the state's Alcohol and Tobacco Control won't be assisting St. Louis police in monitoring underage drinking at this Saturday's Mardi Gras.
But if you're a minor thinking about getting your buzz on tomorrow in Soulard, beware: The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will still have plenty of plainclothes officers working the beat.
Mike O'Connell, spokesman for Missouri's Department of Public Safety, tells Daily RFT
that state liquor control agents are now charged exclusively with enforcing regulatory matters (such as license issues) and no long assist in criminal violations. That said, the state agency, which supplied a handful of undercover agents to last year's Mardi Gras, is now passing along its federal grant money for alcohol enforcement to local jurisdictions, such as St. Louis.
Sam Dotson, the St. Louis police captain in charge of monitoring Mardi Gras, tells us that he'll have 30 officers working undercover Saturday to enforce drinking laws (and other issues). In addition, four undercover officers from the city's excise division will also be patrolling the streets Saturday.
Of the 92 arrests made last year during Mardi Gras' grand parade day, more than half were for underage drinking.
Police arrested 48 minors for possession and a dozen for fake IDs, and six more people were accused of supplying minors with alcohol.
Dotson says that this year, his undercover dicks will also be on the lookout for unsafe gatherings on rooftops.
"This is a relatively new concern," Dotson tells Daily RFT
. "More and more people are partying on rooftops, which can obviously be extremely dangerous because most of those buildings do not have railings."
Dotson says that members of the city's building division will also be out on Mardi Gras to make sure the rooftop parties are as safe as possible.
And what, you ask, about indecent exposure? What is the police department's position on arresting women (or men) who flash themselves for beads?
Dotson says its largely a judgment call on the part of the officer. "Is the action an affront or alarming to the individuals who witnessed it?" asks Dotson. "If so, then we're going to enforce the laws. But our real mission is to encourage people to have a good time and to be responsible as people."
FYI: Police made five arrests last year for lewd behavior and/or exposing persons, which included public urination and nudity.
Oh, and before we forget, you can't bring backpacks, coolers or beverages (alcohol or other) into Soulard on Saturday.