Was that dage worth the underage? Police and students weigh in
BY Staff Reporter
An underage drinking citation can be costly, time consuming and permanent. Cassie, a university student who requests her last name not be used, was held by the Newark Police Department (NPD) for underage drinking in a backyard with hundreds of other students for hours in 2016.
“People were calling their moms and dads who were cops and lawyers asking should we run, should we take the breathalyzer, do we refuse?” Cassie said. “Me and my friends just kind of hid in the corner and tried to sober up for two and a half hours, it took that long.”
According to students who attended the party, NPD had the small brick house on East Park Place completely surrounded, giving the partygoers no way to escape. Police had a long line of about 200 students to breathalyze. They set up tables, computers and port-a-potties.
“Honestly the process is all about money,” Cassie said. “It was $200 at first — $100 in fines and $100 in fees — then it was like $75 to get fingerprints, then at a later date it was $100 to get it off my record.”
According to NPD lieutenant Andrew Rubin, the money collected from underage drinking fines goes to a variety of needs for the police department and Delaware state systems.
“The fines assessed go into the City of Newark General Fund,” Rubin said “The ‘fees’ are generally state-mandated fees that go to various state services such as victim assistance, videophone system, DELJIS [Delaware Criminal Justice Information System] system, etc. We do not charge to fingerprint and I assume the $75 fee you refer to has to do with expungement. Expungement is not handled through the arresting police agency and is a court issue. You would have to ask the courts about their fees.”
The single largest day-drinking bust in Newark occurred in 2016, when 174 people were given citations for underage drinking at a party. Rubin claims the number of underages thoughout the years stayed relatively consistent.
“In 2018, the Newark Police made 286 arrests for underage possession/consumption of alcohol, unlawful entry into a liquor store, possession of fraudulent identification and possession of an open container of alcohol while under 21 years of age,” Rubin said. “From 2014-2017, there were an average of 278 arrests per year.”
Rubin assures that the NPD does not use arrests as a “scare tactic.” Rather, they are simply responding to calls to combat crime.
“I was so drunk and so terrified,” Josh, a member of a fraternity who requests his last name not be used, said. “I was a freshman at the time and thought my life was over, when my college experience had just begun.”
With warm weather approaching, outdoor party season will likely be back into full swing. Students are wondering if another big bust is heading their way.
“Underage drinking has been a problem and will likely continue to be a problem,” Rubin said. We continue to combat the problem with the resources available.”
In fall of 2018, just months after the university had been named the No. 1 party school by The Princeton Review, a similar bust happened at an off-campus party. According to the NPD, about 100 citations were given, but the operation was not pre-planned, as the bust in 2016 was.
“They had to have planned it way in advance,” said Danielle, a junior, who requests her last name not be used. “There was a helicopter circling looking for the biggest party to bust, it wasn’t just NPD there, it was UDPD and Delaware police officers too.”
According to The Princeton Review, party school rankings are based off “student ratings concerning the use of alcohol and drugs at their school, the number of hours they study each day outside of class time, and the popularity of fraternities and sororities at their school.”
“Handing out so many underages just makes this school look worse,” Jacob, a junior, who also requests his last name not be used, said. “When I go and visit other schools, police officers just patrol to make sure everyone is safe and having fun. Instead, here, the cops just wanna bust as many parties as they can, to write as many tickets as they can, to make as much money as possible.”
The NPD suggests that these arrests are made to ensure the safety of students and residents in Newark. Alcohol is consistently a factor in Newark crime.
“Whether a crime is committed while someone is under the influence of alcohol or someone under the influence of alcohol is a victim of a crime, alcohol is an underlying factor in many crimes in Newark,” Rubin said.