Police to bring the heat
Undercover police, liquor enforcement arrives Sept. 7
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 22:09
It’s that time of year again when college students take to the red cup-littered streets for a night on the town, but this time the police may not be too far behind.
This weekend, students can expect to see the increased presence of Burlington Police as we as another law enforcement agency called the Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team (S.T.A.R.T).
S.T.A.R.T is an initiative formed by Chittenden County police officers, liquor control and the DMV in which law enforcement volunteers dress in civilian clothes and raid house parties in Burlington’s student populated hill section every other month.
“We’re going to Burlington (Sept. 7) because it’s the beginning of the school year and all the kids are out,” said Sergeant Caleb Casco of the Hinesburg Police Department and member of S.T.A.R.T.
In addition to S.T.A.R.T., the University decided to partner with the Burlington Police Department (BPD) to increase weekend police patrols last February, allowing the presence of up to six to eight patrols in response to concerns voiced by Burlington residents.
“These patrols are really about safety,” Community Relations Director Joe Speidel said. “Students have rights and responsibilities and these patrols are a way to address that.”
Director of Student Affairs Tom Gustafson agreed with Speidel and said that while the majority of UVM students are not responsible for disruption downtown, the few who are tend to give the University a bad reputation overall.
“This isn’t a punitive measure,” Gustafson said. “But 36 students were either suspended or dismissed last year and maybe more policing could prevent that.”
As the Cynic previously reported, the patrols cost around $35,000 per semester to maintain, and administrators said they would use community response and data —the number and types of violations given — as benchmarks to determine the trial program’s success.
Officer Andi Higbee of the Burlington Police Department said this past weekend from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 resulted in 62 noise incidents compared with 54 in 2012 and 59 in 2011.
Higbee said that while he thought the increased police patrols had a successful first run because of the higher number of contacts made, he did not expect to see a dramatic change in noise complaints yet.
“There’s not a decrease in noise yet because it is so new,” he said. “We don’t expect to see an impact yet.”
As for residents, some feel it may be too early to determine how effective the patrols will be.
“There were police patrols this weekend?” asked Jay Williams, a middle-aged man who lives on Bradley Street. “You could have fooled me — I didn’t see them.”
Williams said he believed most of his neighbors, many of them college students, were generally respectful and were not disruptive enough to require police intervention.
“For the most part they’re okay,” he said. “They’ve got to have some fun after all; they can’t just crack the books all the time.”
Drew Thomas, a Burlington resident who is not in college, said he also didn’t notice any heightened police activity last weekend and that added patrols seemed punitive.
“I’m always skateboarding around at night and I didn’t see anything too unusual,” Thomas said. “I think it’s probably going to get a lot of kids kicked out or lose their financial aid.”
Sophomores Taylor Hannan and Sarah Ross said they had heard of and been in attendance at a few parties that were broken up by the BPD, but that this was to be expected on the first full weekend of the year.
“The cops went about it in a respectful manner and to my knowledge no students were handed violations or breathalyzed,” Hannan said.
Some residents said they believed the police patrols were necessary, but questioned how influential they would be.
“I live on a pretty busy street and there’s always noise on weekends,” said Kelly D’Angelis, a mother of two. “There’s a line between having fun and being disrespectful and some students cross it a little too frequently.”
“I’m glad the BPD are doing something, but I’m not sure if it will be very effective,” she said.