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Bratton Warns Law Breakers Will Be Arrested During SantaCon

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Police will be out in force and ready to arrest anyone who breaks the law during SantaCon, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton cautioned Friday.

"Just an early warning to anybody who wants to come into the city and raise hell dressed up as Santa Claus -- we're not going to tolerate it," Bratton said. "You can be naughty, but you have to be nice and it has to be within the law."

The event will be heavily policed.

"You want to enjoy it, obey the law. You break the law, and we intend to enforce the law," Bratton said. "We will not tolerate any violations of the law by any of the participants."

After several years of defending the massive, costumed Christmastime bar hop against a bad-Santa rap, organizers are making new efforts to convey that the SantaCon coming to town Saturday is growing -- not throwing -- up.

For the first time, they publicly released the planned route days before their romp through Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan bars. Organizers, who once shied from officialdom, started planning with police over a month ago, got a permit to assemble in a park and even agreed to tweet police messages about pedestrian safety.

The revelry will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday in McCarren Park in Williamsburg. The pub crawl then heads to nearby clubs Verboten and The Hall, then to Manhattan's Lower East Side before reaching other bars and clubs around Madison Square Park, 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported.

Photos: SantaCon Pub Crawl Invades Midtown In 2014

Performance art to some, pub crawl to others, SantaCon is trying to evolve as organizers face pressure to take more responsibility for revelry. It has ballooned in size to thousands of people and now is coming at a time of heightened concern about security and public gatherings.

"There's a transition to a more positive SantaCon,'' said Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer who has worked with the group since last year.

Still, mixed feelings are as evident as dueling pro- and anti-Santacon signs in windows of businesses in the East Village, and some officials are seeing red.

A dozen state and city politicians this week pressed SantaCon to "self-police'' participants and asked the State Liquor Authority to station investigators along the route.

"Try spending an afternoon in some of our neighborhoods where the event is occurring, and you'll find incidents of disruptive and boorish behavior,'' says state Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents Manhattan areas on the route. He said he was glad to see such changes as the route disclosure, but he's still concerned the format encourages binge drinking.

The agency and SantaCon said they already planned to do what was asked.

SantaCon grew from a 1994 San Francisco "Santarchy'' that satirized Christmas consumerism into bashes in over 300 cities. New York's is generally acknowledged as the biggest.

Enthusiasts paint SantaCon as a creative take on holiday traditions of festive dress, good cheer and charity. Organizers say they raise tens of thousands of dollars for various causes.

But some New Yorkers came to see SantaCon as the fright before Christmas.

Police logged a total of two arrests and 85 summonses for disorderly conduct, open alcohol containers and other offenses during SantaCon in 2012 and 2013, when some Santas got into street fights seen in online videos.

Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road began banning alcohol during the event, some Manhattan residents posted "SantaCon free zone'' signs, and a city councilman effectively sank the group's plans to venture into a Brooklyn neighborhood last year.

Organizers started trying to mend fences in 2013, telling police (but not, until now, the public) their route in advance and asking volunteers to defuse problems. A "Santa Code'' urges revelers to spread "joy. Not terror. Not vomit. Not trash.''

Siegel said last year's SantaCon counted no arrests or summonses; police said they had no information on any.

This year, SantaCon is roving a city that has been on alert since the attacks by extremists in Paris on cafes and other social venues. Organizers went forward in the spirit of not letting violence "change our traditions and our values,'' Siegel said.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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