Editorial: Dancing all the way to jail
Do more arrests at concerts bring increased safety?
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 01:03
As reported on the front page of The New Hampshire today, 39 people were arrested at the Tiësto concert last Friday night at the Whittemore Center. Twenty-two of those arrested were UNH students. While that is an eyebrow-raising number, it is not atypical of many concerts here at UNH. At Avicii’s show in October of 2011, 34 people were arrested. Approximately 20 were arrested at David Guetta’s show last February. Meanwhile, when Tiësto performed at the Mullins Center at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst the night before his show at UNH, only one person was arrested. And nearly 6,000 people attended that show.
These numbers raise some questions. Are concertgoers safer because of all these arrests? Or are the police at UNH concerts being too heavy-handed in their enforcement of the law?
Many students would agree with the latter argument. Concerts like Tiësto’s bring an increased police presence on and around campus, and the inside of the Whitt was teeming with police as well. Underage drinking certainly occurs every weekend at both UNH and UMass, but arrests for unlawful intoxication here in Durham increase exponentially on the weekend of a concert compared to most others. It’s no secret that many of the people who attend concerts are intoxicated, underage or not, at both UNH and UMass. It probably doesn’t take too much effort to find a couple dozen students to arrest for unlawful intoxication.
So, while it’s certainly true that police at UNH are going after concertgoers with more aggressiveness than at UMass, one could make the argument that it makes everyone safer, as well. Seven people at the UNH concert had to be brought to the hospital for alcohol-related reasons. At Tiësto’s concert in UMass, 19 people had to go to the hospital and one student seriously hurt himself when he jumped off a balcony and fractured his skull and jaw.
It’s impossible to know whether any of those trips to the hospital from the UMass concert could have been avoided if more police had been around to catch severely inebriated drinkers or drug users earlier in the show. But UNH officials can take heart in the fact that fewer kids had to be packed into an ambulance and no one was seriously hurt during Tiësto’s concert at the Whitt.
At the same time, however, it does not make for good headlines when dozens of kids are arrested at show after show here in Durham. It doesn’t add up when over 1,000 more people attend the UMass show and only one is arrested, while 39 are put in handcuffs at the Whitt.
In the future, officials at UNH shows could scale back their efforts to target underage drinkers and instead put even more resources in identifying those who are a danger to themselves and others. That would maintain a level of safety at these concerts while incarcerating fewer people, which would be a triumph for both the university and its students.