In the last six years, St. Patrick's Day in Farmington has brought with it two homicides and an officer-involved civil rights violation. Traffic officers said the holiday may also bring an increase in calls for alcohol-related crimes.
"I'm not aware of any statistics that would indicate there would be more crime on St. Patrick's Day," Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts said. "I think it's wise to take precautions anytime there is a holiday and there may be more parties and drinking."
Farmington police and San Juan County Sheriff's Office officials said the homicides were not directly connected to St. Patrick's Day. But both agencies will be increasing traffic patrols throughout the holiday weekend.
"It's a drinking holiday. It's St. Patrick's Day, and it's tradition to celebrate it with corned beef, (cabbage) and green beer," Farmington police Sgt. Dave Monfils said. "There's an array of crimes related to alcohol for those who can't handle it."
Monfils said Farmington police officers participated in a DWI checkpoint with New Mexico State Police on Friday night and there will be more Farmington officers patrolling for DWI and other traffic violations throughout the weekend.
The state of New Mexico provides grant money to law enforcement agencies throughout the state to increase DWI enforcement around St. Patrick's Day and spring break. Both Farmington police and the
Monfils said Farmington police's traffic division will have more than double the number of officers on patrol this weekend.
Farmington police typically have two to three officers patrolling for DWI during weekend shifts, Monfils said. The grant will allow the department to put an extra three to five officers on DWI patrol throughout the weekend.
"We are going to be out and I'd encourage everyone whose going to be out to have fun and be safe," he said.
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office has eight to 10 deputies on patrol at any given time during weekend shifts, said Sgt. Scott Facka. The office will use state grant money to add another three to four deputies to the streets to patrol for DWI cases.
"It can be a busier weekend because of how people think they should celebrate St. Patrick's Day," Facka said. "But I don't have the numbers to say there's an increase" in crime.
In recent years, violent and high-profile crime have occurred on the holiday.
During the end of a St. Patrick's Day party in 2007, Kailie Sitta, a 15-year-old Farmington High School sophomore, was shot and killed outside of a home on 603 Taos Ave., which is part of a neighborhood just south of Farmington city limits.
Danny Vargas, who lived at the home on Taos, was charged with murder in Sitta's death but charges against him were dropped. The case remains unsolved.
At the same home at the end of a St. Patrick's Day Party in 2012, Raul Avalos allegedly shot Demetrius Garrett in the chest. Garrett survived the initial shooting but he died in November. Prosecutors believe his death was a result of the shooting.
Avalos was arrested for the shooting the day it happened and in December prosecutors amended charges to include first-degree murder.
On St. Patrick's Day 2011, San Juan County Sheriff's Officer Dale Frazier responded to downtown Farmington after a fight was reported at Three Rivers Brewery.
Frazier got into an altercation with Donovan Tanner and beat the Native American man with his flashlight.
The encounter was captured on Frazier's patrol cars camera. Frazier was released from the sheriff's office and later convicted of a civil rights violation in federal court.
"Those crimes were not a direct reflection of the St. Patrick's Day holiday," said Farmington Police Sgt. Kent O'Donnell. And San Juan County Sheriff's Office Lt. Cory Tanner said the homicides weren't related to St. Patrick's Day.
"I think it had more to do with the people involved and their lifestyle than the day of the year," he said.
O'Donnell said other than the traffic division, Farmington police won't have an increase of patrol officers this weekend.
"It's on a Sunday, people have to work the next day, it won't be a big deal," he said.
Ryan Boetel may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 564-4644. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel.