Police urge fans to celebrate responsibly

By Patrick T. Sullivan

To combat any unruliness that may stem from Final Four celebrations, Lexington and UK officials will increase police patrols, heavily monitor debris and punish citizens who burn furniture.

“We don’t want to have headlines on the national news for a group of small revelers bringing national attention to us for something that is unneeded,” UK Police Chief Joe Monroe said in a press conference Friday morning. “We don’t need any cars turned over, any couches set on fire. We don’t want anybody hurt.”

Monroe said he expects 20,000 people to be out celebrating. Lexington’s police department will supply roughly 120 officers for celebrations, while the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office will supplement that number with 20 officers. UK Police will have 40 officers on hand.

Although increasing enforcement and preparing for the worst, officials realize that most fans will celebrate in an orderly fashion.

“Based on past experiences, 99.9 percent of fans are good fans,” Lexington Police Assistant Chief Michael Bosse said. “Only a small percent that come don’t behave.”

Lexington police will videotape from different vantage points to track any criminal behavior. Officials effectively used this technique in 1996, a celebration marked by unruly fan behavior, Bosse said.

In 1996 and 1998, fans gathered at the corner of Euclid and Woodland to celebrate UK’s national championships. This year’s celebrations have been scattered thanks to the renovation of South Limestone, Bosse said. Because of scattered crowds, police will not blockade the normal celebration locations. Rather, they will respond accordingly to where fans congregate.

Open container laws will still be in effect, but police will use discretion when enforcing these rules.

“We know it’s a celebration,” Bosse said. “We’re a small number compared to the crowd, and we have to use discretion.”

In addition to increasing manpower, Lexington officials have preemptively cracked down on excess furniture in order to prevent the increasingly popular practice of couch burning. The Lexington Division of Code Enforcement has 19 officers collecting debris and furniture. Officers have collected 20 couches from yards around campus and anticipates collecting up to 100, Division Director David Jarvis said.

Assistant Fire Chief David Mattingly warned that people can face criminal charges for setting fire to couches. If the fire spreads to buildings or other property, the person who set the fire could be charged with arson, a felony charge that carries the possibility of a prison sentence.