Kent prepares for parties

Lindsay Wargo

Police plan to patrol student hotspots to keep crowds under control

A protester is tackled by police on the lawn in front of Rockwell Hall during the May 4, 2003 protests.

Credit: Andrew popik

Dumpsters are on fire and cars are turned over. Police are marching past your door and shooting rubber bullets to disperse an unruly crowd. Students are throwing beer bottles at the officers.

This environment may not be conducive to studying for finals, but students who were in Kent the weekend before finals in 2001 experienced it. Since then, police presence has increased throughout Kent on the weekends leading up to finals.

What to expect this year

Kent Police Captain Greg Urcheck said he expects anywhere from 15 to 20 Kent officers to be on patrol this weekend. Next weekend, staffing will be beefed up even more, he said. On a normal weekend, the department schedules seven to nine officers.

In addition, the police department will be relying on mutual aid, Kent Police Chief James Peach said. This aid will come from surrounding areas as well as from Metro SWAT, a team comprised of officers from 19 agencies in the area.

“We’re ready to respond promptly for the safety of our citizens,” Urcheck said, adding that the department is hoping to have crowds that act responsibly.

He said as long as students behave themselves, the department will have easy weekends.

Peach said because the Kent Police Department contributes aid to Metro SWAT, the extra help will be of no extra cost to the city. However, the department will have to take more out of its budget for increasing its own staffing.

Peach said the department is given a budget to use throughout the year. The extra staffing for the end-of-the-year weekends does take its toll on the budget, he said, especially during hard financial times. He said this prevents the department from doing more proactive things throughout the community.

The ingredients

Students party throughout the year, so what makes the last few weekends so problematic?

Peach said toward the end of the year, the weather is nicer and students “can see the end of the tunnel” as school winds down. Also, it’s one of the last weekends to socialize with friends, he said.

“People have friends come over who have friends come over. The next thing you know, we have large amounts of people,” Urcheck said, adding that this results in noise violations, alcohol violations and assault charges, among other things.

He said the police step in not because they want to break up a party but because dangerous situations can arise once that many people get together.

Kelan Craig is a senior political science and economics major who lived in the University Townhomes apartment complex on Summit Street last year. He said students need to realize they attend a university within city limits, and while the community benefits greatly from the presence of the university, he said it is important students remember that their actions can have a negative impact on other citizens.

“My advice to students is to remember that when you throw bottles, yell obscenities at police and light things on fire that you are crossing the line, not the police,” Craig said. “It is very easy to act in a responsible manner and avoid any repercussions that might come with doing something inappropriate.”

University Townhomes

According to a Spring 2003 Daily Kent Stater article, about 40 people were arrested in 2001 at University Townhomes. In 2002, that number dropped to about 12 people, according to the same article.

Peach said the problems at the University Townhomes have been reduced because of an increased police presence since 2001. Those who lived there in the past for the party atmosphere have decided to live elsewhere because of the police presence, he said.

Junior psychology major Jen Wihebrink agrees. She said University Townhomes is tamer than it has been in the past.

“Everyone gives (Townhomes) a bad rap that it’s such a party place, but this year it hasn’t been that bad,” said Wihebrink.

Although this is her first year living in Townhomes, Wihebrink said she isn’t concerned about the end of the year parties.

“I’m more stressed out about finals,” she said. But as far as other students go she said, “It’s college kids. What do you expect?”

The University Townhomes area isn’t the only area of concern for the department, Peach said.

“Theses things can happen anywhere,” he said. “We’re aware that we have to be flexible.”

Peach said the weekends toward the end of the year have gotten better over the past few years, adding this also is true for the University of Akron and other university communities.

“We intend to continue to have greater police presence toward the latter part of the year in order to prevent the problems we experienced several years ago,” Peach said.

Words of wisdom

“Most of the (college) kids are great out there,” Peach said, adding that the problem often starts when alcohol enters the picture. “You see a side of them (the students) their parents usually don’t see.”

Peach asked that students “conduct themselves as they would if they were still living at home.”

“If that were the case, it would solve a lot of our problems,” he said.

Wihebrink advised her fellow students to use common sense if they were going out to party.

Craig offered a slightly different outlook on the situation.

“Given our history here at Kent State and the importance of May 4, it might serve us better as students to be more proactive about things going on across the country and around the world than about getting loaded before finals week,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Lindsay Wargo at [email protected].