September 23, 2002

Ithaca Police Crack Down Over Weekend

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The Ithaca Police Department this weekend arrested 21 people between East Hill and South Hill in response to recent unruly behavior among college students, according to law enforcers.

“We’re probably doubling our arrests at least,” Sgt. James Herson of the Ithaca Police Department said, noting that the city averages four or five arrests on a typical night, instead of the nine and 12 arrests made Friday and Saturday, respectively. The arrests included open container, public urination, underage drinking, third degree assault, disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana.

Ithaca Mayor Alan J. Cohen ’81, joined Friday morning at City Hall by officials from Cornell University, Ithaca College (I.C.) and the city police department, publicly implemented the zero tolerance policy against illegal student activity.

An e-mail addressed by the mayor was also sent out Friday to all Cornell and I.C. students, citing the “unusual level and nature of student party activity” as well as multiple assaults in the past three weeks, more than the police department typically handles in a given school year.

“The activity of the past few weeks has stretched our resources. Our people are exhausted from working an inordinate amount of overtime, which diminishes their ability to provide quality services. We are concerned for their safety and that of those who attend the many parties we have seen,” he stated in the e-mail.

Cohen contacted President Hunter R. Rawlings III and I.C. President Peggy R. Williams last week to discuss methods of taming student misconduct and options for escalating law enforcement procedures.

“Both institutions are taking this seriously,” Cohen said Friday.

The mayor stated that the level of law enforcement for deviant student behavior will escalate until the city feels that the situation has improved. Students charged with disorderly conduct will now face misdemeanor charges instead of the violation citations that they previously received.

In addition, the city activated an emergency operations center Friday night to respond to student infractions. Cohen said the New York State police will interfere in the situation if necessary.

In his e-mail, the mayor attributed the rise in crime to factors that may include “good weather, pressures from events like 9/11 and the impending war with Iraq, [and] the souring economy.” He noted that his belief that the drinking age should be set at 18 years of age.

Cohen also recognized Friday that local high school students attend college parties and that they are sometimes responsible for disorderly conduct, urging Ithaca parents to speak with their children about the situation.

“The University is committed to solving this problem,” Cornell Police Director William Boice said. “College students party but they have certainly crossed the line.”

Six Cornell police officers cooperated with the IPD last weekend, Herson said. The departments also used unmarked cars and plain-clothes officers with windbreaker identification to help them find illegal activity. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control also had members monitoring illegal alcohol consumption.

Last week, Greek representatives convened in various arenas to address the city’s concerns about reckless partying.

Some members of the Greek community said they believe that the reduced number of parties has led to the chaos that has occurred at remaining parties.

“There have been a lot fewer catered or regulated parties,” said Erik Snyder ’03, president of Sigma Chi Fraternity and head of Absolut Catering. “[This means] that there are a lot more people going to fewer parties.”

Snyder was also troubled by the sudden escalation of city law enforcement. “If this was a problem that they had seen in the past five weeks, they should have taken proactive measures before enacting the zero-tolerance policy,” he said.

Other members of the University Greek system said they feel that fraternities and sororities are unfairly receiving too much of the blame for disorderly student behavior.

“All chapters have felt the increased pressure from law enforcement,” said Jason Conn ’03, president of the Interfraternity Council. “We understand that there is a stigma sometimes attached to the Greek System, but we should still get the same treatment the rest of the community gets. Right now I’m not sure that is happening.”

However, despite some resentment, fraternities and sororities are cooperating with city law enforcement to reduce unruly partying according to Conn. “Chapters want to work with law enforcement to ensure their events go off without a problem,” he said.

Archived article by Ellen Miller