Dominick Calsolaro

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City acts to keep lid on drinking at concerts

Police monitoring, drink limits, taxi vouchers all part of Alive at Five plan

Published on 6/2/2009 by the Times Union written by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer

ALBANY -- Alive at Five revelers can expect booze snoops this year in the 20th summer of Thursday night live music.
In a measure meant to boost safety at the 11-week series of free outdoor concerts at Riverfront Park, city police will roam the crowd with special devices that can detect intoxication and tell whether non-alcoholic drinks have been spiked with alcohol. Mayor Jerry Jennings made the announcement Monday ahead of the series kick-off on Thursday, which will feature the band Blues Traveler.

Servers in city-sanctioned trucks with beer for sale have also been given additional training in how to identify intoxicated customers and intervene without sparking confrontation, said Bob Van Amburgh, an aide to Jennings.

Also new this year, the county's Stop-DWI program is offering cab vouchers to those who don't want to risk driving home, said program administrator Leonard Crouch.

"It kind of marks the unofficial start of summer in town, and we're looking forward to a fun, free -- but most importantly -- a safe event," Van Amburgh said. The announcements come a year after District Attorney David Soares raised concerns about instances of drunken driving after the city-sponsored events.

Soares joined city officials for Monday's announcements.

Crouch said the Albany Police Department has obtained four Alco-Sensor FST machines that can measure someone's blood-alcohol level and also test drinks.

The second feature, he said, will help crack down on underaged drinking. Officers -- both in uniform and plain clothes -- will watch the crowd and use their judgment and training to evaluate revelers' behavior.

If someone declines a test, "it could lead to your ejection," Crouch said.

The city will also continue pre-existing limitations on who can buy beer and how much they can get at any one time. People planning to drink must show ID to get a bracelet, and then can only buy five tickets for drinks at one time. Only two tickets can be redeemed at once, Van Amburgh said.

Alcohol sales will also end 15 minutes prior to the close of the show.

Last August, 32 allegedly drunken drivers were stopped in the hours following a show. The DWI checkpoints were spread around the county and city event planners challenged how many of the arrests were linked to the concert, which ended an hour before the checkpoints began.

The arrests prompted Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro to call for an end to all alcohol sales at the concerts, but the resolution has yet to win enough support to pass.

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com.