After a long day of partying at a fest, some students may find themselves drunk, lost and without many open bathrooms. A common question starts to trickle into their minds: Can I rock a piss right here without getting caught by the cops?
Many people have learned the answer is no the hard way.
Ohio University Police, or OUPD, and Athens City Police, or APD, arrested seven people for public urination during Mill Fest in 2019, according to arrest records from both departments requested by The Post. The total number of public urination arrests that year was 12.
However, this year, the two departments have only made one arrest on a fest day since the parties returned after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
Fest season is a tradition where OU students living on a particular street or section of off-campus housing collectively throw parties on a Friday or Saturday during the Spring Semester.
Milliron Apartments, Mill Street, Congress Street, High Street, Palmer Place Apartments and Palmer Street are participating as of 2023. With parties on Saturday beginning between the early hours of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., students will be drinking, and with that, many bladders fill early in the day.
Fest season is infamously the rowdiest time of the year in Athens. Police cars, officers on foot and groups of police horses from APD and OUPD, who are sworn in as APD officers for the season, roam the streets to ensure everything is in order. Public urination must be seen by an officer for them to make an arrest.
The total number of arrests in 2018, 2019, 2022, 2023 is 22. In 2018, there were nine, 12 in 2019, zero in 2022 and one in 2023, which happened on April 15. Of all of those, only two were listed as female and the remaining 20 were listed as male by the arresting officer.
"Back in the late '90s, early 2000s when we had fests our numbers were nowhere near this low," Ralph Harvey Jr., captain of police at APD, said. "We were arresting a lot more people, we were having a lot more problems and it was all at night."
Tim Ryan, staff lieutenant at OUPD, said he remembers putting on riot gear to clear thousands of people off the streets during fests when he started working for the department nearly 18 years ago. Nowadays, Ryan said the environment at fests has changed and is much safer partly due to Athens' nuisance party law, which was adopted in 2004 and gives the police the ability to shut down a party it deems as a nuisance.
The conditions for a gathering to be considered a party include destruction of property, underage drinking, illegal open container, unlawful deposit of litter, public urination or defecation and many more, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
Garrison Dunn, a senior studying marketing, said he was at a party during Congress Fest that was shut down because someone publicly urinated in front of the house. He said it was disrespectful and wasn't upset that the cops shut the party down.
APD made its only public urination arrest in the last two fest seasons at this year's Congress Fest. It was not confirmed whether it was the one related to Dunn's party being shut down, but a Congo Fest arrest is an outlier in the last six years.
Of the 22 arrests made during that period, 12 were during a Mill Fest, five occurred during a Palmer Fest, three were during a High and Congress Fest and Palmer Place only reported one arrest.
"Theoretically they could bust every college party no matter what (for underage drinking)," Dunn said. "That's just how it is and I think you just got to draw a line when people are just being idiots. If some dude was … peeing on my lawn, peeing on the street I wouldn't really want that."
Harvey also said the nuisance party law has been influential in calming fests down, but the change really started in 2012 when an arsonist started a firein the basement of a house party during Palmer Fest.
"After that, there was a distinct change in how both the police department, the city, the university, and even the student population dealt with big events and fests," Harvey said.
The main strategy they found was to shut down the nuisance parties early in the day because a lot of the problems would happen during the night. Now, Harvey said APD has started educating and working with students.
In the fall, officers who shut down parties would explain exactly what violations a party was under. For several years, APD sent informational fliers out before big events like fest weekends. Harvey said he believes that has made a big impact and now sees a change in the way students behave during fest weekends.
Harvey said he's also started seeing students either call APD or go up to foot patrols and ask them to break up their parties, which is something he said he had never seen until recently.
"You want us to shut your house down? We'll help you out, we like it when you're compliant," Harvey said.
A big change Ryan said he has seen is more parties using porta potties. He said he thinks it's great and has "really changed the game."
"I personally do expect (less crime during fests) to continue," Ryan said. "I have had some great experiences with fest-goers over the last couple of years and that has been more positive than years ago. I think it's a different time. I think it's a better, safer time."