Police cracking down on alcohol arrests

By Sam Hayes

The next time you walk into a large lecture hall for a class, say one with more than 40 students in it, pause and look around for a minute. The odds are that if there are more than 40 students in your class, at least one of them was arrested by the University of Massachusetts Police Department in the last year for drinking law violations.

489 arrests were made at the University of Massachusetts for “liquor law violations” in 2009, up from 266 arrests in 2007, according UMass Amherst’s Annual Security Report.

“Liquor law violations” include supplying alcohol to minors, transporting alcohol illegally, drinking in public, using a still or bootlegging liquor, and do not include operating under the influence.

“Alcohol is at the foundation of our problems on campus,” said Deputy Chief of the UMPD Patrick Archbald. He explained that drinking can lead to violent behavior, damage to property and other crimes.

The UMass police have increased their level of staffing and the number of patrolmen, which makes them “more productive while they’re here,” said Archbald.

“We’re an active department,” said Archbald, explaining the spike in arrests. “We take action on whatever we see…and there is an expectation to interdict alcohol.”

Some members of the student body, however, see the increased UMPD activity as a crackdown on students, not a response to a growing problem.

“Nobody is drinking or partying more; [the police] are just cracking down, “said Student Government Association President Brandon Tower.

The SGA is starting a program to help students better understand criminal offenses and their rights.

“It’s a student initiative to let students know their rights,” explained Tower of the program, called “Know Your Rights.”

Tower said it will help students know what to do when police are at their door or if they are arrested. The program with also include a Facebook page with important information about student rights so that students can easily refer to it, said Tower.

In response to the rise in arrests Tower said he and his administration want to “build better relations with the Town of Amherst.”

Tower said that the SGA’s Secretary of External Affairs is working with the Amherst Select Board to amend the $300 fine for an open container to community service in order to both help students and the town.

“It is ineffective to wage a war of attrition against drinking and partying,” said Tower. “We need to make more of an effort to bolster relations, both parties [students and the town and police] have a role to play.”

“It is uncomforting,” said Barry Dalin, head judicial advisor for the SGA, about the increase in arrests.
Dalin, a political science major, said that his job involves taking “students through what the University judicial system entails.”

“If [a UMass student] gets in trouble at any of the Five Colleges or in the Pioneer Valley, the Dean of Students will find out,” said Dalin, “and that’s a double whammy,” meaning that the student will face criminal charges and University sanctions that stay with a student’s record for seven years.

“It is not an increase in student indulgence,” said Dalin, echoing Tower’s sentiment.

Offering advice to students, Dalin said, “do not walk around with solo cups or water bottles, regardless of its contents. Any cup, can, or bottle gets cops’ attention.”

Dalin also cautioned that Liquors 44 is “staked out” and reminded students that driving around with alcohol in one’s car when one is under 21 is a crime.

“You are going to get caught,” said Dalin, “there is a heavy presence on and off campus. Know your rights.”
Drug law violation arrests went down from 260 in 2008 to 97 in 2009, likely having to do with the $100 fine for marijuana possession under one ounce, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Sam Hayes can be reached at [email protected]