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Alcohol Review: Town Up; College Down

The College’s 2011 Campus Security Report is out and it seems that town/gown trends in alcohol enforcement are continuing. Arrests of students by the Town of Hanover Police for underage drinking increased to over double what they were a few years ago, yet the College’s own enforcement of the alcohol laws has plummeted to a fraction of what it was. While the laws themselves have not changed, clearly policies in Parkhurst and at the H. Po. station on Lyme Road are not what they were.

Alcohol 2005-2010.jpg

That said, we can expect that the formal category of “arrests” by H. Po. will drop sharply next year, due to a procedural change by Chief Giaccone. The Chief described the new policy to me as follows:

Previously, those who were transported to the hospital for an alcohol overdose were issued a summons to appear in court with a subsequent opportunity to enroll in diversion. We changed the process in these particular cases whereby we first offered diversion, and if the person failed to register within seven (7) days, they were then issued a summons. What this resulted in was not only a significant change in how those cases were documented for record purposes, but also in the numbers for their respective categories.

Cases in which students go to diversion will not count as arrests in Clery Act statistics — the legislation that the College follows in reporting violations.

The change is good only as far as it goes: avoiding arrest by entering the Town’s diversion program will not get graduate-school-bound students off the hook. Grad schools are not fooled by this kind of subterfuge. For example, Columbia Law wants to know if you have either been arrested or entered into a diversionary program:

Columbia Law App1.png

Columbia Law App.png

When all is said and done, both the Town’s and the College’s enforcement of the alcohol laws are both laughable and highly unfair. Only certain students in a sea of violators will be punished, as a clear-eyed student writing in the most recent Dartmouth Alumni Magazine points out:

A lot of students think it’s laughable that they are supposed to register with administrators and identify a sober monitor any time people are drinking in the fraternity—even if there are no nonmembers. If these guidelines were actually followed, most fraternities would be registered every single night…

If the Greek system were abolished, not only would the alumni base suffer a collective aneurysm, but students would continue to drink. They would drink in different ways, in other environments, but they would still drink. You would not be getting at the root of the problem.

Finally, and most importantly, the Town’s punitive arrest/diversion policy will put pressure on heavily intoxicated students and their friends not to use the College’s Good Sam procedure. Though the College has not yet had a death due to alcohol poisoning, the Town’s policy will hasten the day when that event occurs.

What a sad, ongoing mess.

Note: As this space reported previously, Hanover has too many police officers: in 2008, Hanover’s 36 police department employees were the fourth highest number per 1,000 inhabitants among the 21 towns in New Hampshire with populations between 8,000-16,000. However, Hanover’s rate of violent crime (6 total crimes) was the fifth lowest per 1,000 inhabitants among the same towns and its rate of property crime (207 crimes, almost all of which were minor thefts) ranked thirteenth in the state in this same group. In short, Hanover officers just have too much time on their hands.

Addendum: Most of the other Ivy League schools have not yet updated their Clery results for 2010, so we cannot yet compare Dartmouth’s alcohol arrest/diversion statistics with our sister schools, but it is a fair bet to estimate that the Hanover Police arrested or put into diversion programs more students than were arrested/diverted by the police forces of all of the other Ivy League schools combined.

Addendum: Cheif Giaccone has written in to take issue with my contention that his department is overstaffed. He pointed out in an e-mail that the actual staffing of the police department pertains to police officers. Although there are approximately 36 FTE’s [full-time equivalent employees], only 20 are sworn officers with 15 doing the actual patrol work on a 24/7 basis.

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