School year begins with festivities, alcohol citations

by K.C. Howard

Like clockwork, the first weekends of fall semester bring out barbeques and beer, and University police want those under 21 to understand they might be adults, but they are not above the law.

But every Friday and Saturday night, students are walking or stumbling in herds or alone from party to party.

“The first week of school, especially when there is nice weather like this, there tends to be a lot more partying,” University police Capt. Steve Johnson said.

Last Friday and Saturday, University police ticketed 20 people for underage drinking or holding an open container of alcohol in public view.

Last year, University police handed out 48 underage drinking citations on the first Friday and Saturday of fall semester.

Underage consumption tickets typically warrant a $105 fine in Hennepin County.

“Our officers are very aware of the problems created by alcohol consumption, especially openly in the community,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of the fact that they are out there writing so many tickets.”

University students are not as grateful.

Many said they wished the police would let them enjoy adolescence more.

“I’m careful about when I do it and where I do it,” University sophomore Ted Becker said. “I don’t drink to black out and I don’t drive when I drink. That’s pretty responsible.”

Although Becker, 19, has never received an underage drinking citation, his friends who have been cited were not dissuaded from drinking, he said.

“It makes them be more careful about when and where they do it,” he said. “It doesn’t stop them.”

Approximately 67 percent of underage students at the University drink alcohol at least once month, according to a student health survey of 1,000 students last spring.

According to the data, 41 percent of underage University students binge drink at least once every two weeks. “Binge drinking” was defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting.

Since 1999, University police officials have cracked down on open containers and underage drinkers.

“We’ve stepped it up,” Johnson said. “I went after more grant funding to support those activities, and we’re assigning more overtime officers.”

University senior Dan Everett, 22, has seen the results of the added enforcement and said many of his friends have transferred from the University or decided not to enroll because they say it’s no longer fun here.

“College isn’t just about studying,” he said. “When I was a freshman, there were just parties all over the place.

“Now you’re lucky if you find a party on a Friday night.”

And open containers during a party-to-party trek are a matter of convenience, he said.

“I’m not going to waste my beer or throw up by pounding it,” Everett said. “The risk (of getting caught) is not high enough that it outweighs the inconvenience of it.”

But police want students to know underage drinking and carrying an open container at any age are illegal and punishable offenses.

“If our attention is drawn to people doing that, we will be citing them. And we do have special patrols out there doing that,” Johnson said.

From the Blotter:

At least 13 bicycles have been stolen on campus in the past two weeks, most of which were locked.

University police recommend students use a cheap bicycles on campus in combination with a heavy-duty horseshoe lock.

“Lock it to a bike rack so the wheel and frame are locked to the bike rack,” Johnson said.

He also suggested students get a bicycle license from the state, so if police locate a stolen two-wheeler they can identify the owner with the bicycle’s serial number.

K.C. Howard welcomes comments at [email protected]