GVPD manages underage drinking

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Sgt. Jeff Stoll helps an intoxicated individual find his way back home on the corner of Pierce street and 48th avenue on Oct. 25.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Sgt. Jeff Stoll helps an intoxicated individual find his way back home on the corner of Pierce street and 48th avenue on Oct. 25.

Hannah Lentz

Alcohol is notorious for being associated with a college student’s spring break, the occasional thirsty Thursday and, just in time for school to start, welcome week.

Although this week can be seen as the perfect time to let loose and enjoy the party, when a large amount of the undergraduate population is under the legal drinking age, there can be more to pay than the $12.99 for that bottle of Svedka.

According to the 2015 Clery crime report 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 with the help of the Youth Alcohol Enforcement grant from the Office of Highway Safety and Planning through the Ottawa County Police Department.

“We have seen that underage drinking leads to assaultive behavior and an increase in destruction of property,” said Brandon DeHaan, GVPD captain. “We use the funds from this grant to keep our campus safe.”

The GVPD was re-authorized for the grant this year, receiving $15,000 to go toward overtime pay for officers during high-risk times for underage drinking. With this grant, university police are able to bring in officers from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department to assist GVPD in monitoring drinking during certain times.

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

So far, the grant has been 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 fewer 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.

“Students need to have an expectation of an increase of officers on and around campus,” DeHaan said. “We are going to be mobilized during risky times to enforce the zero tolerance policy the university has on underage drinking.”

GVPD is currently in the process of writing their proposal for the Youth Alcohol Enforcement grant for the 2017 school year and has been identified as a potential grantee.

For more information about GVPD, visit www.gvsu.edu/gvpd. For information on alcohol counseling services at the university visit, www.gvsu.edu/aces.