Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Partying getting more expensive in Amherst

By Brian Canova

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Since the start of the new school year, nearly $40,000 worth of fines have been issued by the Amherst Police Department to young, college-age individuals.

Last May, an amendment was added to the Town of Amherst bylaws which increased alcohol related violations to a mandatory $300 fine. Violations include open containers of alcohol, noise violations and keg violations. The Amherst police have issued 329 citations, as compared to 263 during the same period in the previous year.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette reports that 130 fines totaling $39,000 have been issued since Sept. 1. The most common violations were open container violations, a fine that was raised $250, from $50.

“Today a $50 fine is just not a deterrent it once was. Meaningful fines offer law enforcement an additional strategy for addressing undesirable situations without causing the recipient to have a criminal record,” said BASICS Program Director Diane Fedorchak. “Current research maintains that consistent, strict enforcement of policies, coupled with meaningful deterrents, is proven to reduce negative behaviors and creates environmental change.”

Between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31 of 2010, 154 open container fines were issued, 135 for unlawful noise violations and 41 fines for nuisance house citations were issued.

During that same period in 2009, 174 fines were issued for open container violations, 78 for unlawful noise complaints and 11 nuisance house citations were doled out. The nuisance house bylaw was added during the 2009 fall semester.

Amherst Police Captain Christopher Pronovost said that it was too early to tell if the fines have decreased disruptions to the town peace. “The fall was the first semester and we actually had an increase in citations. Now that we‘ve gotten through the fall and a few people have been zinged the spring will be better.”

Provonost emphasized that the police department recognizes that students will have parties, but that they must be calmer than in the past, citing an incident last spring when riot squads were dispatched to Hobart Lane.

“We all know people are going to party, that’s okay,” Provonost said. “But safety is our main concern. Nobody likes negative publicity. Beatings, stabbings, rocks being thrown, nobody wants to see that.”

“The goal is to deter bad behavior,” said Town Manager John Musante, “The real test is whether police have to go back and there has been a decrease. I think that is the net positive.”

Fedorchak added, “I just saw a student this week in BASICS who got mad over the $300 fine. He said he and his roommates totally toned it down this semester after the $900 fine between them. I think it’s having the desired effect on our community.”

Captain Provonost explained that the increase in noisy parties (which have nearly doubled since 2009) has gone hand-in-hand with a particularly violent semester, which saw an increase in assaults, serious injuries, and medical care for drinking related accidents.

Provonost has met on multiple occasions with Fedorchak and the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking to address the issue of increased violence.

“Blame it on Four Loko’s, that was one idea that we batted around, but that may not be. We’ve seen an increase in highly intoxicated individuals, what their choice of beverage is I don’t know. We are starting to see more non-students, and that seems to be when trouble starts,” Pronovost said.

“There’s just not data to support why [the increase in violence] is happening,” said Fedorchak. “I do know increased drinking does perpetuate more violence. Being a big university, non-students come here and when there’s not a sense of community and less sense of ownership, it leads to more destructive behavior.”

With nearly $40,000 in fines issued, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports that $13,800, just over one-third of these fines, have been collected.

Brian Canova can be reached at [email protected]. Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected].

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