Underage drinking tops list of first-weekend offenses in Kent

Kelly Byer

Arrests for underage drinking topped all other on-campus charges at the start of the school year, with 16 charges from the first weekend before classes began and eight from Labor Day weekend.

Records from the first weekend included on-campus charges from Aug. 21 to Aug. 24. The second weekend on-campus charges were from Thursday through Sunday.

The weekend before classes begin tends to be one involving more security policy violations in residence halls than other weekends throughout the year, security manager Brian Hellwig said.

“There’s not a whole lot to keep (students) occupied in terms of classes or anything,” he said. “So, they have a lot of free time on their hands.

“They’re just exploring the city and the university.”

Alice Ickes, crime prevention officer for the Kent State Police Department, agreed that free time before school is often spent visiting with friends or meeting new people.

“People are out socializing a lot,” she said. “Aside from our students, because we have such a big student population, a lot of people come to Kent to party, to meet other students.”

Hellwig said alcohol is often a factor in most violations, whether it’s for vandalism, fighting or other incidents.

“Alcohol plays a lot into most of the activities,” he said.

The Kent State Police Department records also show a history of more alcohol-related arrests during the first few weekends each academic year.

According to the records, there were 25 arrests in 2006 for underage drinking during the first weekend from Thursday to Sunday before classes started. There were five arrests for underage drinking during the second weekend. In 2007, there were 10 underage drinking arrests the first weekend and two the second.

Kent City police are also busier the first week before classes start, Capt. Michelle Lee said.

The weekend before school started, there were only a few alcohol-related offenses out of a total of 73 arrests, she said. There were 59 total arrests in the city over Labor Day weekend.

The best advice for freshmen, Lee said, would be to know the laws. For example, she cited the drinking age. Students can still receive citations for underage drinking if they are on private property, she said.

Other than extra free time and alcohol, the adjustment to college is part of the reason for the increase in activity, Ickes said. Students choose how much time to spend partying and how much time to spend studying while learning how to balance their time.

The Week Of Welcome programs are one way the university prepares for the upcoming school year by introducing freshmen to resources at Kent State.

“For many years, there’s always been some programming efforts in the first week of school or from move-in time to when classes begin,” Ickes said. “We’ve always been very involved in that so that we can get good information out to the community.”

This year in the residence halls, Hellwig said there seemed to be fewer incidents than usual.

“I was expecting a little bit more activity, but fortunately, the students proved me wrong,” he said.

Although security didn’t act much differently this year, Hellwig said the Week of Welcome programs seemed to have more late-night activities.

“So, I think that was helpful,” Hellwig said.

This year, Residence Services has also instituted a new guest policy for the Tri-Towers rotunda, restricting access to non-students between midnight and 4 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

“That’s in an attempt to reduce the number of acts of vandalism and fights that have taken place there over the years,” Hellwig said. “Most of the issues have dealt with non-students, so that’s why we’re restricting it to just students.”

But no matter where a crime or policy violation is committed, offenders will still face a penalty.

“We really do pursue enforcement right away because we don’t want to give people a misconception,” Ickes said. “We want them to understand that we know they’re here for an education, even if they happen to forget it for awhile.”

Contact safety reporter Kelly Byer at [email protected].