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UNH to rethink impact of alcohol
By Robert Lawrence
Friday, December 10, 2004
With the recent death of Richard Hegerich, past UNH riots, parties every weekend across campus and the constant alcohol awareness provided by the University, members of the University community have to wonder whether or not alcohol is becoming detrimental to University life.
Allison Gene, communications supervisor of the UNH dispatch center, overlooks the operations through the UNH dispatch, and helps cover all the emergency calls that come through UNH and the surrounding towns of Durham, Lee, Barrington and Madbury. Last year from August to December, Gene's dispatch center covered a total of 11,255 calls.
Gene provided a look into the average week at the dispatch center from Oct. 8 through Oct. 15. In that week, Gene said there were 16 illegal possession of alcohol calls and three open containers. She also said in an average week they'd get 15 calls for alcohol conduct. Gene deals with emergency calls also and said on average there's about one major emergency call from UNH, like Hegerich, a year. That particular dispatch call for Nov. 21 lasted just over eight hours, said Gene.
"The telephone around here never stops for a bit," Gene said.
UNH Police Capt. Paul Dean agrees. Dean said emergencies like Hegerich's happen all too often, but are not unexpected in a community as large as UNH.
Dean said drunk driving has always been here at UNH. "Both UNH and Durham police get money for DWI patrols and make a relatively good amount of arrests each year despite the fact we are a walking campus," he said.
In a memorandum written by the Durham Police Department, a progress report comparing the months of January through September, 2001 through 2004, showed that DWI arrests in Durham fluctuated very little. In '01 there were 33 DWI arrests, 39 in '02, 42 in '03 and 36 in '04. Total DWI arrests this year have changed to 41 as reported by TNH reporter Michele Filgate in a previous TNH article.
Ann Lawing, senior assistant vice president for Student and Academic Services, has been employed here at UNH since 1977 and said alcohol has always been an underlying factor. Lawing supervises all judicial and mediation programs at UNH, and provided some statistics on cases that go through the conduct system at UNH. Lawing showed that in the 2003-2004 school year, 1,129 individual cases went through judicial and mediation programs. Out of these 1,129 cases, only 86 involved sanction hearings with alcohol.
Mark Rubinstein, vice president for Student and Academic Services, said that over the past six years he has seen an increase in the number of students who are taken through the conduct system for alcohol-related violations, but it wasn't clear to him whether or not this increase reflected on more people drinking, or more enforcement effort on the part of the police and the University.
Durham Police Deputy Rene Kelley connects the increase of sanctions with an increase of enforcement. Kelley said there hasn't been a real increase in alcoholic behavior here at UNH, just an increased enforcement effort. "A lot of our focus is on alcohol enforcement, obviously because this is a college town," Kelley said.
Originally students who were stopped for underage alcohol violations were issued a violation summons. And after this ticket, "they'd be on their way," Kelley said. Kelley said more often or not, however, those same students that were issued alcohol violation summons would later in the evening be found involved with other alcohol-related crimes, like bar brawls. Kelley said the biggest problem was that officers issued so many of these violations; they often couldn't positively identify the students involved during court trials. So in 2000, the Durham Police Department and the UNH Police Department started what's called The Durham Alcohol Enforcement Initiative.
The Durham Alcohol Enforcement Initiative centered around four initiatives that would increase arrests but lower Durham crime. The first, most prevalent initiative was the physical arrest for alcohol violations.
In an article written by Kelley about the Durham Alcohol Initiative, Kelley stated arrests had increased at UNH by 47 percent following the initiative. He also wrote that noise complaints had fallen by 64 percent and the total number of crimes had fallen in the first year alone by 16 percent.
In a memorandum issued by the Durham Police Department, statistics showed that out of the 498 arrests made so far this semester, 249 were students, and the other 249 were non-students, showing a perfect 50/50 break in arrests.
From Aug.27 until Nov. 8, the most recent statistics for this semester, out of all the arrests made so far, 76 percent were people who were under the age of 21, and 70 percent were arrested for alcohol-related charges.
The other three initiatives in The Durham Alcohol Enforcement Initiative were parental notification, the Adopt-a-Cop Program and the Seacoast Alcohol Task Force.
Parental notification for the Durham Police Department now means parents of minors who were arrested for alcohol violations will now be notified at the occurrence of the arrest.
The Adopt-a-Cop program allows for Durham officers to interact with students in a non-enforcement atmosphere. Officers would at a minimum attend monthly meetings with sororities and fraternities and serve as a community connection, developing projects that these students could perform.
In the Seacoast Alcohol Task force, the police departments of the Seacoast region of New Hampshire formed an alliance. The goal being a focus on business compliance checks, high visibility patrols during events and plainclothes surveillance of businesses suspected of selling to underage persons.
Also the Durham police, UNH police and the State Liquor Commission work together to regularly conduct alcohol checks at local stores in the first weeks of each new semester. These standard routines in the past have all been successful.
"They aren't getting worse; what I see is more awareness," Kelley said in relation to alcohol-related problems. "UNH is still a very safe community."
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