Campus police step up focus on alcohol-related problems
'Aggressive enforcement' of existing rules seen as essential component of successful control programs
| 24 August 2006
With a new school year about to begin, UC Berkeley police are stepping up their efforts to curb alcohol-related crimes and other problems on and around the campus. Their plans for the fall semester, which starts this week, include decoy operations designed to reduce under-age drinking.
Campus administrators and police have long been working with students, area businesses, and neighborhood groups to reduce alcohol-related problems, but a new $40,000 grant from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is making it possible for UC Berkeley's Police Department to expand its enforcement efforts.
Under the grant, campus police will partner with ABC investigators and the Berkeley Police Department to continue, and in some cases to expand, programs that have proved successful, here and elsewhere, when used by other law-enforcement departments.
This new effort, which will coincide with traditional back-to-school parties and Greek-life recruitment events, will include party patrols in which a city and a campus police officer will share a vehicle and patrol for alcohol-related problems, including assaults, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct.
University police will also be looking for students with fake identification. Police will work with local alcohol retailers to catch underage individuals using fake IDs and driver's licenses.
There are more than 35 alcohol-selling establishments in the immediate campus area. The grant will allow UCPD and Berkeley city police to target those with a disproportionately high number of alcohol-related crimes. The effort will include monitoring whether bars and clubs are checking for valid identification and following other laws and regulations governing alcohol sales. For businesses, violations can carry substantial fines and possible loss of their alcohol license.
For students and other patrons, punishment for alcohol-related misdemeanor offenses (such as possession of false or altered identification, misdemeanor assaults, and public intoxication) can range from warnings to arrests, fines, and community-service requirements to jail time and loss of a California driver's license for up to a year, according to Lt. Doug Wing of the campus police. Berkeley students may also face campus student-conduct charges. Generally, penalties for violations of the campus student-conduct code can range from warnings to suspensions.
"The problem is bigger than a few underage people getting together, having a few drinks, and having some fun," said Wing. "It is about quality-of-life issues for the campus and surrounding community. Our experience and that of other programs around the nation show that alcohol-reduction programs are more effective with an aggressive enforcement component."
Nationally, 1,700 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes. More than 696,000 students in that age group are assaulted by students who have been drinking, with more than 97,000 of those assaults classified as alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape, according to the Annual Review of Public Health's 2005 report.
In 2005, an alarming series of alcohol-related problems within Berkeley's Greek system led campus officials to ban fraternities from serving alcohol at on- and off-site parties. That moratorium was gradually lifted over the 2005-06 school year and fully lifted by the end of the spring semester, following a written agreement by Greek leaders to take comprehensive steps to promote safety at their parties and events.
Taking a holistic approach
Wing points out that law enforcement is just one aspect of a holistic approach that Berkeley takes to address alcohol-related problems around campus. For example, to offer alternatives to events involving alcohol consumption, campus staff and student groups host late-night, non-alcoholic activities such as movie nights, casino nights, and athletic competitions.
Other efforts include:
. A new "Party Safe" public-awareness campaign, launched by the campus, that provides students with information about alcohol laws and policies, as well as with tips on how to be a responsible party host, guest, and neighbor. It also provides information on how to identify symptoms of alcohol poisoning and what to do. The information is available online at partysafe.berkeley.edu.
. AlcoholEdu for College, a program used by numerous colleges and universities and launched at Berkeley during the 2005-06 school year; it requires all new students to take an online course on alcohol awareness. The program is being enhanced this new school year to include Berkeley-specific resources for students, including links to medical and counseling services and relevant campus policies and contact numbers.
. A chancellor's task force made up of students, Berkeley residents, and city and campus officials. The group is working together to address recurring problems, including late-night noise and alcohol-related incidents, and to generally make the neighborhoods near campus more welcoming and peaceful. Neighborhood canvassing and a "Welcome Back" street fair are being sponsored by a local neighborhood association to reach out to new student residents.
The new special-enforcement efforts being launched by campus police under the ABC grant will take place on undisclosed dates during Welcome Week and continue through the fall and spring semesters, on days when law-enforcement officials anticipate high levels of alcohol consumption.