Undercover officers hide in woods to catch underage drinkers

By Brittney Murrary, Keeley Smith and Cameron Kittle
On September 23, 2009

Andy, an anonymous University of New Hampshire student, had just picked up a 30-rack from a 21-year-old friend on campus Saturday night when an undercover UNH police officer emerged from the Strafford woods.

"We got beer and I was like, we'll go back to my apartment, it's probably safer to do it there," he said. "So we go back to my apartment and this undercover cop comes out of the woods as I'm walking up to my apartment. This kid's carrying the beer; I'm just getting out of my car, getting my stuff out of my car, and the undercover cop comes out of the woods and is like, ‘Hey, drop the beer, let me see your IDs.'"

Andy, 19, knew he was in trouble, but it wasn't the first time, or even the second.

"The first time I didn't really realize what was going on," he said. "Second time, when they called me and were like, ‘Hey, come down to the station,' my heart just sank; I was sick to my stomach. The third time I was just kind of like whatever, this is getting old."

Andy was arrested twice his freshman year, with charges ranging from resisting arrest to littering to trespassing – but this past arrest was something he never thought would happen.

"I guess I had kind of heard of cops, but I figured I'd see it on like Madbury or something, like cops would come out of the bushes or uniform cops but I never expected to see an undercover cop, ever," he said.

The Durham, Lee and UNH police departments were given a grant of $6,000 this year in a hope to decrease underage alcohol consumption, both in the area and specifically on campus. The United Way of Seacoast Resolution, which was passed on March 16, allowed for further coordination among the departments.

The Seacoast Alcohol Task Force Grant, which was given to the Durham and UNH police departments several years ago, coupled with the new grant provides funding for extra coverage on campus and in town to deal with alcohol related issues, said UNH police officer Joseph Morganella.

"The state and federal government actually pay for us to enforce alcohol laws," Morganella said. "We get grant money to work together and take care of all the alcohol offenses."

Although the local police departments were hopeful of making more arrests, the beginning of the 2009 academic school year was slower than in past years.

"Last year, the first weekend, we had 12 arrests, and seven of them were drug related," Morganella said. "This weekend we had maybe three arrests in the first weekend. So the start of the year was a little milder than last year. But as we progress through the year it seems to be getting pretty busy so I would say we are on a par with last year or possibly a little busier than last year already."

With the new grant and the notorious first few weekends back at school, where alcohol consumption is at its peak, the police presence in Durham has been more noticeable than in past years.

"It's hard to say, the first couple weeks back are always pretty nuts, but yeah, this past Saturday night I noticed there were cops everywhere," Andy said. "You go home for the summer and like you don't party that much, like you do, but you don't really, not on the same scale, but I guess the first couple weeks when you come back from school you kind of go wild."


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