October 23, 2006

Ithaca Police Enforces Open Container Law

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New Student Orientation at Cornell has long been associated with hordes of students spilling onto College Avenue. In recent years, many of these students have run into trouble with Ithaca’s open container ordinance.

“I was walking up College Avenue from a party on State Street towards the bars and a police car pulled up with its lights and sirens and stopped me,” said Cory Brader ’07. “I was holding an open beer bottle, so I pretty much realized that I was blatantly guilty. I wasn’t drunk, but they just wrote up a citation and told me I had to appear in court. The whole thing was kind of funny.”

While many college students see the open container ordinance as overly harsh, Deputy Chief Edward Vallely of the Ithaca Police Department described the law and its enforcement as an essential part of maintaining public order.

“The open container ordinance has been in place for so long that people have probably forgotten the impetus for it,” he said.
According to Vallely, open containers created serious problems in the 1980s when bar owners would leave alcohol on the sidewalk after closings. Students would then congregate around the bars, often leading to altercations and property damage.

As part of an effort to prevent similar prevent similar incidents in the Collegetown area, the Ithaca Police Department has stepped up its patrol of the area during peak party times.

“We enforce [the open container laws] pretty vigorously all the time. It’s a consistent issue, but we generally see a big slowdown after classes have been in effect for a short time,” Vallely said.

To deal with the rise in drinking that invariably accompanies orientation and senior weeks each year, the Department has assigned a detail to cover the Collegetown area. The detail usually consists of five patrol cars assigned to the Collegetown area, trying to prevent crimes against quality of life by issuing open container and noise violation citations.

“If you’re out patrolling for anything, you’re out patrolling for everything,” Vallely said. But open container violations “are so common that if you’re out there on patrol, you’re definitely going to find open containers.”