The Record: Cops snare student drinkers
The Record (Waterloo Region)
Cops snare student drinkers
LIANNE ELLIOTT AND EUGENE MCCARTHY
WATERLOO - Only one month into the fall semester, police have already laid 175 liquor-related charges against university students in Waterloo, including the two hosts of a large off-campus keg party this weekend.
Waterloo regional police said this year's numbers are significantly higher than the number of charges laid in September and early October last year.
"It's a notable increase," said Sgt. Ken Jessop with the Waterloo detachment.
"We don't have the exact numbers (from last year) available right now but we can say the number of charges has risen."
Jessop and other officers said the double cohort could be one of the reasons behind the increase.
Because OAC and Grade 12 students graduated simultaneously in Ontario this spring, with many starting first-year university together this fall, enrolment has risen at both the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.
Jessop said the increase means it's likely more people are drinking and attending parties and possibly misbehaving.
Staff Sgt. Gary Haffner, also of the Waterloo detachment, said the double cohort also means there are likely more underage, inexperienced drinkers. Grade 12 graduates entering their freshman year are usually 17 or 18 years old.
Police did not have statistics available yesterday about how many of the 175 charges were laid against underage students.
"Most of the students are really good kids," Haffner said. "But they're away from home, a lot for the first time, and they aren't used to drinking."
Haffner said the rise in charges might also reflect an increase in police surveillance in neighbourhoods, including three officers on bicycles around the university and downtown nightspots.
The officers on patrol come across some bizarre activity. Haffner recalled one student who was so drunk he pulled a stop sign out of the ground and was caught walking down King Street early one morning, stopping vehicles.
At the large keg party Saturday night, held at a Marshall Street home in Waterloo, police seized eight kegs of beer worth $1,560, Haffner said.
Several hundred students, attracted by the all-you-can-drink $10 entry fee, were at the party when police arrived.
Police charged two student hosts, aged 21 and 22, with selling liquor without a permit.
The 175 charges only reflect the enforcement on city streets in the vicinity of the two universities. Police employed by both universities are responsible for investigating liquor offences on campus.
Haffner said many charges follow complaints from residents whose property has been damaged by drunken students.
The University of Waterloo intends to discuss the higher number of charges with police as soon as possible, UW spokesman Martin Van Nierop said last night.
He said he wants to get a clear understanding of exactly how big the increase in charges is. He also wants to know how many charges were laid against underage students.
"It's important we understand what the issues are and what we can do about them," Van Nierop said.
"We are always interested in working in co-operation with local police to keep this kind of behaviour under control."
Van Nierop said the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University have many programs on campus that tackle alcohol issues. The programs urge students who are of age to drink responsibly and those who are not of age to abstain.
Van Nierop also noted that students under 19 are not allowed to drink on campus. If they wish to go to a campus pub, they must wear special wristbands indicating they are not to be served alcohol.
Van Nierop said 22,000 to 23,000 students are studying at Waterloo's two universities this semester and most are well-behaved on campus and in the community.
"I want to caution the importance of keeping this in context," Van Nierop said. "By far, a huge number of students do behave responsibly. Most of the kids are good kids."
The students who have been charged with liquor-related offences have been mainly charged in the Waterloo area, police said.
Staff Sgt. Greg Lamport of the Kitchener division said he hasn't seen any noticeable increase in liquor-related offences involving students in downtown Kitchener.
"If they come, they usually are bused in and bused out," he said.
Guelph police, plagued during the summer by drunken disturbances at downtown nightspots, are also keeping track of charges involving students but these were also not available.