Metropolitan Police officers arrested only a handful of students for underage drinking on a weekend that saw scores of students in handcuffs last year.
Lt. Robert Aiello said seven people, several of them students, were arrested for underage drinking Thursday, Friday and Saturday in MPD’s second district, which encompasses GW and Georgetown and American universities.
Aiello could not say whether any GW students were arrested.
Lt. Patrick Burke, who oversees operations that target underage drinkers and liquor vendors that sell to minors, said MPD has arrested more than 1,300 underage drinkers, many of them college students, in the past two years.
“We’ll be strong of course in the beginning of the (academic) year, but we’ll follow it up throughout the year,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.
” (But) we don’t measure our success by the number of arrested people,” he said.
Burke said MPD officers show up unannounced at nightclubs frequented by 18 to 20-year-olds with state-of-the-art fake ID scanners and alcohol sensors.
MPD and other District agencies have received $1 million in federal grant money to conduct the operations, and have already cited at least 41 liquor vendors for selling to minors.
A Labor Day weekend that last year was marked by the arrest of 70 students, including at least 11 from GW, was relatively quiet this year, even though MPD officers regularly patrolled Foggy Bottom and Georgetown for underage drinkers.
Officer John Brennan, who is assigned to Foggy Bottom, said he didn’t arrest any students this weekend for underage drinking.
“Last year, we were getting a lot more underage possession,” he said.
Asked why he hasn’t found more underage drinking, Brennan said, “It’s unpredictable. I’m not sure”
Officer Howard Smith said MPD sees more drunken students a few weeks after classes start.
“Wait for a month, let a few weeks of classes pass…then you’ll see a lot of parties,” he said.
Brennan said he almost always finds underage drinking when he patrols GW, evidenced by his encounter with a sophomore who was throwing a party at his Statesman apartment Saturday night.
Instead of arresting the student, whose drunkenness was as obvious as the birth date on his ID, Brennan let him off with a warning that he would get arrested and fined $300 if he was caught drinking again.
“He has alcohol in his system, yeah,” said Brennan, explaining why he chose not to arrest the student. “Even if he has alcohol in his system, I’ve got to see him with a drink. I just can’t go in his room.”
“He was right there,” continued Brennan, who said he would have arrested everyone in the apartment if the student hadn’t come forward. “You just can’t walk into someone’s house.”
Officer Bill Parr, who patrols the Georgetown and Foggy Bottom areas, said freshmen are most susceptible to being caught for underage drinking.
“Every year it’s new people coming in, new freshman,” said Parr, who has three children in college. “We try to send a message – come to D.C. to get an education, but don’t come and use your fake IDs.”
Some students said they were repeatedly warned not to use fake IDs at Colonial Innaguration.
“At CI, they were telling us all the horror stories about fake IDs,” said a Thurston Hall resident who declined to give his name. “I think that kept me from being stupid.”
Others said that while the MPD crackdown has forced them to find more creative ways to get beer, they would continue to use fake IDs at bars.
“The MPD crackdown has some effect. I wouldn’t buy in D.C. anymore, but I feel perfectly comfortable going out to bars,” said a sophomore in a Guinness shirt downing a Dos Equis in a Subway cup at J Street.