A new campus presence initiative from the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement is responsible for an increased presence of undercover officers at this weekend’s Spring Fling.
When Sgt. Dan Steele became the new district office commander of the BLCE’s Philadelphia office in January, he reached out to a number of college campuses about underage drinking, including Penn. The goal, he said, was “an increased campus presence.”
According to Steele, Penn’s Division of Public Safety, led by Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush, was very receptive to the BLCE — a branch of the state police — helping out over Spring Fling weekend.
Also involved in the meetings about the increased presence were the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives.
“Over the course of this year, the number of out-of-control, off-campus parties has gotten everyone a little worried,” Director of the Office of Student Conduct Michele Goldfarb said.
Steele promised that there will be a “significant” number of plainclothes and undercover officers who will be going around to different open parties trying to write citations to underage drinkers.
“Our guys are going to be giving citations before [the students] even know what hit them,” he added.
Penn is not alone in receiving increased attention. There have been increased citations at colleges in the area this semester, including at Temple, La Salle and St. Joseph’s universities.
Steele added that this is not the first time the BLCE will have a presence at Penn. A dozen or more citations were written every Spring Fling as recently as 2006.
The number of citations peaked in 1996, when 94 University students were cited for underage drinking and possessing fake IDs, including 51 at a Penn Rocks for the Homeless concert.
There has also been a crackdown this season at Philadelphia Phillies games. On Opening Day last Friday, 82 underage drinking citations were written to people in the parking lot. Another 61 were written during Tuesday’s game. Steele said many of the citations were to area college students.
“If you’re not 21, stay away from alcohol. Our officers will be there if you do. It’s going to be zero tolerance,” Steele said.
Director of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives Julie Lyzinski said in an email that the department typically takes a “harm reduction” approach to alcohol education.
“However, ‘harm reduction’ does not mean that students are free of consequences for their behavior,” she noted.
The department works frequently with DPS to follow up on incidents and provide education to prevent negative consequences of alcohol consumption.
OSC “is typically reactive, instead of proactive. We wanted to take a proactive step here” by letting the community know about the coming presence of undercover officers, Goldfarb said. The office handles matters related to student discipline.
Steele said that the office is concerned not just about underage drinking, but also crimes typically associated with the act.
He added that the officers will not be confined to any one demographic. “Agents will be young and old, male and female,” he said.
While the BLCE cannot force entry into a house, it can go into an open party or cite someone at one of the block parties common during Spring Fling.
“What students need to understand is that this is a criminal offense,” Steele said.
Lyzinski said that students still have many legal ways to have fun at Spring Fling. “I hope students think about the possible consequences to their behaviors and make healthy, legal decisions about how they enjoy the Fling weekend,” she said.Comments powered by Disqus
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