Officials: Quiet Cortaca saves city calls, costs

“Quiet” is how city police and fire, and SUNY Cortland, described this year’s local Cortaca Jug celebrations --- an unsurprising calm considering the record-setting attendance at the game held at MetLife Stadium.

City police made less than half the number of arrests this Cortaca weekend compared to arrests in 2019, according to Lt. Michael Strangeway.

“In relation to calls for service and arrests, it was the quietest Cortaca Jug in over 25 years,” Strangeway said in an interview Monday.

City officers arrested 19 people and responded to 44 calls for service between the hours of 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Saturday, Strangeway stated. During the same hours in 2018, the department arrested 44 people and responded to 77 calls for service, he said.

While numbers from other years were not immediately available, Strangeway noted this year’s arrests and calls were lower than even the historically low number of arrests and calls in 2018.

Fire Chief Wayne Friedman also noted in a phone interview this afternoon the city fire department did not have as many calls for service, such as emergency medical calls, as in the past.

“It wasn’t as eventful as it was in the past,” Friedman said.

Firefighters responded to 22 calls over the weekend -- an about average amount of calls for a weekend, said Capt. Dave Jensen in a phone interview.

The department made code enforcement checks of city bars on Saturday night to ensure there was no overcrowding and found there was none, Jensen said.

SUNY Cortland also noted a quiet weekend on campus, said Fred Pierce, a spokesman for the college in a phone interview.

“I heard anecdotally it was pretty quiet compared to other years,” Pierce said. “It does seem like, behavior-wise, this Cortaca Jug was pretty good.”

Pierce noted students were not allowed to have any alcohol on the bus that brought students to the East Rutherford, New Jersey stadium and back.

Strangeway pointed out the number of arrests and service calls were even less than those from the 2019 Spring Fling -- an annual SUNY event that historically has fewer city arrests and calls than Cortaca.

City police made 29 arrests and responded to 49 calls for service during the 2019 Spring Fling, Strangeway said.

Of the 19 arrests city officers made last weekend, only two involved SUNY Cortland students, he said. During the 2018 Cortaca weekend, SUNY Cortland students accounted for 15 of the 44 arrests, Strangeway said. 

The game being held at MetLife Stadium was a probable factor for the calm weekend, Strangeway noted.

“I would think that would certainly play a role in that,” he said.

Next year Cortaca Jug is scheduled to return to SUNY Cortland’s campus, said Pierce.

“I think MetLife was a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” he said, but added “never say never.”

The quiet Cortaca weekend had impacts beyond fewer arrests and calls for service, Strangeway noted. It also meant fewer police overtime costs for the city and fewer requests for aid from other agencies.

“We cut our overtime costs in half compared to past years,” Strangeway said. The department declined to release actual overtime figures for 2019 and 2018.

City police also did not have to rely on help from the state police and Cortland County Sheriff’s Office, he said.

“Since the major problem we had during Cortaca in 2013, we’ve drawn on the support of other agencies to police the city,” Strangeway said, referring to the Cortaca Jug riot. In addition to policing aid, the Sheriff’s Office’s correctional officers worked in past years taking arrestees to the jail when city officers were unavailable.

Not having to ask for help from other agencies also means those agencies are free to police other areas and are not incurring overtime costs of their own that taxpayers ultimately fund, Strangeway said.

With the game returning to Cortland next year, city police will likely have more arrests and service calls to deal with again, Strangeway noted. But how it might affect costs won’t be clear until college and city officials meet prior to next year’s game.

“It’s way too early to say,” Strangeway noted. “We would expect busier police activity when the game is here.”