Cracking down on turning up

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
GVPD officer Minh Lien works within his patrol car Sept. 13 outside of Campus Life Night.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff GVPD officer Minh Lien works within his patrol car Sept. 13 outside of Campus Life Night.

Hannah Lentz

Red cups litter the ground, abandoned alcohol bottles that have served their purpose lay abandoned in the street. This is an average scene walking near a college campus on a Sunday morning, but when a large section of students in a college’s undergraduate program are under the age of 21, there could be more serious consequences to weekend partying than the added clean up.

At Grand Valley State University, there were 200 liquor arrests or Minor in Possession charges in 2014. Up from the 134 arrests in 2013, and the 184 arrests in 2012, the Grand Valley Police Department (GVPD) is cracking down on underage drinking.

“The reason we are focused on this issue is because we have read the studies about underage drinking, we live the studies,” said Brandon DeHaan, GVPD captain. “When we enforce, we are being proactive in preventing other criminal activities.”

To help with this goal, GVPD applied for the Youth Alcohol Enforcement grant through the Ottawa County Police Department. With this annual grant of $13,000, awarded by the Office of Highway Safety and Planning, university police are able to bring in officers from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department to assist GVPD in monitoring underage drinking during certain times.

Large events such as football games, holidays and Homecoming are some of the high-risk events where extra enforcement is needed by the police department, DeHaan said.

So far, the grant has been very helpful in limiting large gatherings and attention-drawing behavior, DeHaan said. The progression can be seen through the average size of parties seen by enforcement.

“Prior to the grant, we had several gatherings with 100 to 1,000 people in attendance,” DeHaan said. “We have been very successful at reducing these type of gatherings to prevent criminal issues on and around campus.”

Party sizes have gone down significantly. Now, GVSU typically sees parties with 30 people or less in attendance, which is still manageable for the host in most cases, DeHaan said.

Though the Youth Alcohol Enforcement grant has been helpful in reducing large, dangerous gatherings, things are not perfect, DeHaan said.

“If someone is in violation of the law and drawing attention to themselves or engaging in underage alcohol consumption, officers will conduct an investigation if there is probable cause and cite a Minor in Possession ticket,” DeHaan said.

Some of these attention-drawing instances include loud music, yelling and shouting, the presence of other illegal substances and the throwing of items such as bottles or other party paraphernalia.

If a student receives a Minor in Possession ticket, a court date will be scheduled and there will be several options for the student including pleading guilty or innocent and receiving probation or working with an attorney. Treatment at GVSU can include working with someone in the counseling center or attending group Alcohol Anonymous meetings.

“People need to be serious about this issue,” DeHaan said. “There are severe and costly results if it is not looked at as what it is: breaking the law.”