As school starts, alcohol violations drop by about half

The number of alcohol violations in the first two weekends of school this year was about half the average number of violations in the same time frame over the past five years.

Nineteen alcohol violations were counted this fall during the first week of classes and the weekends before and after, according to the University’s crime log. Over the past five years, an average of roughly 39 violations have taken place over the same period of time.

Forty violations took place over the same 10 days last year, meaning that the number of violations dropped by 22 for this year — a 52 percent decline.

University Police Department Chief RaShall Brackney said she is “pleased” to see the decline in liquor law violations, but added that the department has not changed its policies on enforcement since the end of the last school year.

“We are committed to working to reduce the number of alcohol-related incidents on our campuses,” Brackney said in an email.

There was a surge in alcohol and drug violations between 2012 and 2013, which Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell said was due to officers actively seeking out students who looked like they had been drinking.

Brackney, who began her position this summer, said last month that one of her goals is to have the department create personal relationships with students and the community, in an effort to create an inclusive culture, a method known as community policing.

David Hanson, an emeritus professor at the State University of New York at Potsdam who has studied college drinking for more than 30 years, said the number of reported crimes rarely match up with the actual number of crimes that occur, meaning more students are likely drinking than are getting caught.

Hanson said that the dramatic decrease in liquor law violations could be explained by Brackney’s approach to community policing or UPD enforcement could mean students are getting better about hiding when they do drink underage. He said there is no “silver bullet” that would explain definitively why the number of violations has decreased.

“It’s dishonest for anyone to say they know why,” Hanson said. “We have hypotheses, but no one really knows.”

Hanson added that the only real way for administrators and the community to know whether alcohol abuse among students has realistically decreased on campus is to hold an anonymous survey consistently every year. GW currently offers additional education about alcohol consumption for students who have already committed an alcohol violation or who have been transported to a hospital for drinking.

Alexis Janda, the associate director of GW’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services, said the University offers online and in-person resources and discussions for students to learn about alcohol, drugs, sexual health and other related topics. All GW freshmen are required to complete an online training program about drug and alcohol use.

She said in an email that the organization “works to educate students about a wide variety of substances so that they may make informed and responsible decisions for their health and well-being.”

Delores Cimini, the assistant director of the State University of New York at Albany’s counseling center who specializes in college alcohol abuse, said the most effective method of reducing alcohol violations is a strategy she called environmental management. She said the strategy could include aggressive enforcement of alcohol laws or a stronger emphasis on educating students about alcohol.

“It sounds like [Brackney] wants the department to engage in community policing,” Cimini said. “That kind of thing could help in terms of proactively addressing problems before they occur.”

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