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Undercover officers hide in woods to catch underage drinkers

TNH Staff

Published: Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02

Police drinking story 9-24-09 (September 24, 2009)

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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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Durham Town Resident
Mon Oct 5 2009 08:11
Being a resident of Durham, and living very close to campus, I am sick of having to deal with drunk students every weekend. I understand that people can be responsible and drink at the same time, and yes it is my choice to live close to campus. It is not the issue of "underage kids" drinking but rather the people who take it too far. I fully support the decision that UNHPD and DPD have made to get these grants and "sit in the woods". If it means that it gets these kids thinking twice about what they are doing, then do it. And lets face it, drinking underage is still against the law. There are alot of things people would like legalized, but face it: ITS STILL ILLEGAL. I might want to go kick the crap out of these kids that vandalize my house and vehicle on their way back to their dorms every weekend, and thinks its right, but its ILLEGAL.
Your name
Fri Oct 2 2009 15:56
Here's a thought. If all the students decided to register in Durham to vote, they would easily outpopulate the townies. In local elections, they could basically take over town government and change ordinances and budgets to their hearts' content. Less $ for the police force, no open-container ordinance, etc. Think about it...
Your name
Fri Oct 2 2009 08:53
What a joke. This will not stop underage drinking, and if anything, just create more tension between students and police.
Mon Sep 28 2009 19:06
Waste of time... Yes obviously... waste of resources... Yes obviously... unnecessary... No doubt. But Kent has a good point. It's up to the students to get together and make a change. If everyone just keeps ignoring it, hoping they aren't the next one to be picked up by the vast amounts of cops running around...or sitting around... then nothing will ever change. I wish I could say I had faith in the UNH student community to get together and press for a change... but who knows. Its a battle we as students can win. I hope someone out there will stand up for what is right.
Clark Kent
Mon Sep 28 2009 15:11
I agree that the drinking age in this country should be changed back to 18, but let's be honest, none of these students are drinking as an act of protest to the law. They are knowingly breaking the law, and being punished for it. In fact, many aren't being arrested for being drunk or for having a 'singe drink', but for illegally possessing alcohol. They are in woods to make the illegal transactions, and so that's where the cops go.
The students who are arrested for being drunk, or as the police term it, put into protective custody, usually have had more than one or two or eight drinks. They don't exactly show the responsibility that they feel they have. The same goes for those students vandalize the campus and the town on their way home from their "responsible" drinking.

"What have the students learned by being arrested by undercover officers?" Easy, they learn if they go in the woods to break the law, they're going to be arrested.

The police grant has nothing to do with athletics or education, it is, as the article says, meant to deal with alcohol-related issues. Putting extra officers in the woods is probably only part of the program. If the police are really serious about cracking down on drinking, they should go after the local establishments that sell to underage students and the "bootleggers" that buy alcohol for younger students.

College students aren't kids. They're adults who were smart and rich enough to get into college, which is why they should be allowed to drink legally, but also why they should take responsibility and obey the law while it is illegal.

If they want the law changed, there are many ways to do it, starting with a group called the Amethyst Initiative, that made some waves last year, by getting college presidents from across the nation to support a lowered drinking age. If students are serious about a change, they can protest - peacefully or by causing some kind of disruption - they can petition or start a campaign and support politicians and officials that support their cause.

Or, they can do what they're currently doing, breaking the law, getting arrested, complaining about it and doing the exact same thing the next weekend. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Jacob Petlon
Mon Sep 28 2009 13:18
The drinking age needs to be lowered to 18. Or the age of adulthood needs to be raised to 21. Drinking happens under 21 all of the time, and no amount of police can stop it. It also hurts many who drink responsibly, making it illegal for them to enjoy just one drink.
This makes me wonder if we even live in a free country anymore. Looks more and more like a police state to me.
Mon Sep 28 2009 09:37
Let's wake up and realize kids should be taught to drink responsibly and enjoy a beer or two with friends and not a race to the bottom of the case. This is not helpful, this is not educational, this is the reason I left UNH. At least that horrible old president [Hart] is out.

We need real dialog about what it means to be an adult in society today, either an 18 year old can fight in a war and serve his country AND have a beer, OR he cannot do either.

Mon Sep 28 2009 09:32
UNH is probably getting a “piece of the pie” from the fines that are being levied on these kids by the town cops.
As an Alumnus of UNH, I feel the school has made a lot of poor financial decisions over
a long period of time. The school no longer has a men’s spring sport. What a joke.
Like a lot of Alumni, I will never donate back to the school until they start to wise up.
Sun Sep 27 2009 22:24
I feel bad for UNH police officers if this is how low they have to go because they are having a boring night. All UNH police can do is direct traffic during move in, tell people when they can cross the road, and catch underage drinkers. Im glad im going to college so I don't end up with a job like that. I wish UNH police luck with trying to catch all those underage drinkers!
Your name
Sun Sep 27 2009 22:01
Over Labor Day weekend our daughter, a freshman, was arrested for unlawful possession of alcohol. She was approached by an undercover officer and asked her age. She was immediately handcuffed and had her cell phone take away. Her roommates had left shortly ahead of her and when my daughter did not return to the dorm tried calling her cell phone. Since the phone was confiscated, the roommates could not reach her and were trying to find someone with a car to look for her. This event was devastating to our daughter and she is still suffering from the effects three weeks later. I have found some comfort in the comments from alumni and staff. I am very troubled by the fact UNH donates money to be used in such a negative manner. What have the students learned by being arrested by undercover officers? On the Durham Police Dept. website their mission statement is "to improve quality of creating positive interaction between the public and police".
Your name
Sun Sep 27 2009 21:37
I agree with much of the comments here. I think that the grant should be used for other purposes besides playing 'I Spy with my little eye a pack of beer' in the woods.
Also to get more educated in these grants that were mentioned I did a quick bit of research.
Here are two links that I think are valuable to anyone who wants to learn more about these grants and the task force.
Your name
Sun Sep 27 2009 20:36
After a night out celebrating a roommates birthday at the bar I drove back to our apartment where a cop starting questioning us... He was more concerned with my roommates ages to check if they were underage and not once asked me how many drinks I had. I only had one so of course it wasn't actually an issue but it just seemed to me like he was completely focusing on the wrong issues! I just hope that current UNH students can still find a way to enjoy the school I remember and love.
Sun Sep 27 2009 12:04
I wholeheartedly agree with all the below comments. I understand the University's obligation to keep students safe, however, spending grant money to hide in the woods to catch students is unethical and immoral and a total waste of University resources. There needs to be a fine line drawn between letting students be students and the University police protecting students from themselves. When the UNH PD resort to hiding in the woods to catch students being students, not causing any harm or disobedience, that just crosses the line. The only logical next step is to actually station police officers in each parking lot and street and inspect every vehicle the enters... or what about camera in each hallway, or better yet, each room so the UNH PD can watch over every student and make sure not one person disobeys the rule of the land. This is ridiculous. As another UNH Alum disapproving of the direction UNH is going with their overreaching enforcement of the law, I am stopping by quarterly donation to the UNH Alumni Association and will be "staying at home" a bit more this year when it comes to attending UNH sponsored events, including athletics. The only way to get through to UNH that the alumni disapprove is to speak financially, which means cutting out our personal alumni donations the University craves for.
Fri Sep 25 2009 21:07
I'm sad to see my alma mater go this route. The role of police officers should be to protect. Plenty of people drink responsibly. People CAN drink and still make good decisions. In fact, people do it every day. I believe the UNH and Durham PDs are too interested in the letter of the law, and not interested enough in the spirit of the law. If people want to have a beer or two or even three with their friends at their residence, and they can do so safely and responsibly, then there is no need for police. The police in these situations are not protecting anyone. They are trying instead to justify their own jobs, at the expense of freedom and the growth opportunities that come with it. There is a serious problem with the way these PDs are operating. I don't know where they are getting their money from, but they won't be getting any from me. Nor will UNH, either in the form of donations from me (and I am in a position to be generous), or in the form of my children's tuition.
R Walls
Fri Sep 25 2009 18:56
The UNH PD doesn't need more grant money wasted on it just so they can maintain their non-issue arrest numbers year-to-year. This $6000 is on top of the grant that was used to buy Segways, which seem to serve no purpose other than allowing officers to buy snacks at Store 24 without having to use their legs.

The UNH PD are "hopeful of making more arrests" because most of the officers know exactly what their job is mainly composed of: arresting drunken college kids who are minding their own business. It would be understandable if their efforts were focused on actually protecting the public (diffusing violent situations, giving people rides home), but their vigilance towards arresting students for drinking at all is dumbfounding. College students are going to keep drinking, no matter how many zip-ties are used in a weekend, so these pigs should just save themselves some paperwork and focus on something that actually threatens the public. Most of the officers of the Durham and UNH PDs need to realize that they are civil servants, not bouncers.

Fri Sep 25 2009 15:56
Is this really how this grant should be used? Undercover police officers hiding in the bust underage drinkers? It's quite laughable, really, that this sounds acceptable to ANYONE. Where were the police last year during the spate of stolen vehicles on campus? Maybe if they had been hiding in the woods at THAT point tens of thousands of dollars worth of vehicles wouldn't have been stolen. I'm actually physically disgusted with this story, and the Durham PD as well. Pathetic, truly pathetic.
Another Alumni
Fri Sep 25 2009 14:46
UNH police really needs to find better things to do. I love hearing them saying the first saturday was "slow" because they didn't get as many arrests as possible. During my time there I can't tell you how many times I saw a 5 cop cars rush to the scene where one cop could handle the task at hand. Let's cut back on giving these cops more money and invest in educational areas and keeping kids like this moron Andy out of a high-class institution.
Fri Sep 25 2009 10:03
I will no longer donate any time or money to the Sea Coast United Way if this is the best they have determined that they can help those in need.
Fri Sep 25 2009 07:59
I know these are like direct quotes from the person involved with the story, but is there a way to like edit out all the 'likes' in the statements given? Maybe Andy should be more conearned with his education at the University rather than drinking...
I wonder if the police are going after the people who are supplying the alcohol with this grant as well as the underage students consuming it.
Your name
Thu Sep 24 2009 18:57
Great, cops hiding in the woods to catch people doing what they do all the time. Great use of time and resources.

Limit underage drinking? HA

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