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University, police, students react to arrests

By Sarah Mervosh | Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The second major police raid last weekend resulted in a broken-down door, landed a police officer in the hospital and brought the total number of alcohol-related arrests since students returned to school to nearly 60.

The incident, in which students reportedly refused to open the door and one person punched and kicked an officer while resisting arrest, sent 35 people to jail.

The recent trend to arrest — rather than cite — students for underage drinking has caught the attention of both students and the University.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said the administration is working to address the issue.

“We clearly don’t condone underage drinking or gatherings that infringe on the rights of others,” Brown said. “At the same time, the welfare of our students is our highest priority.

“We have concerns about the handling of some recent incidents that we are actively addressing through appropriate channels.”

Indiana State Excise Police busted a party on Turtle Creek Drive Sunday morning and arrested 32 people for minor consuming alcohol, one person for public intoxication and one person for furnishing alcohol to minors.

One person was also arrested for resisting law enforcement, battery to a police officer, disorderly conduct and minor consuming alcohol.

Tim Cleveland, excise police commander for the district, said many of those arrested were Notre Dame students, but he could not confirm that all were students.

The excise police were in the area of the party because South Bend police asked them to check a location of another party. When officers arrived, the party they had been called for was not occurring, but they discovered the party on Turtle Creek Drive, Cleveland said.

“They stumbled across the one at Turtle Creek,” he said.

Meanwhile, South Bend police received a call for trespassing at the same party.

“There were individuals who were climbing the fence to gain access to the pool, which was closed,” Cleveland said.

South Bend and excise police officers were denied access to the apartment and waited for two hours to obtain a search warrant. Once the warrant was obtained, the residents continued to deny officers entry and South Bend police broke down the door.

Cleveland said officers decided to arrest rather than issue citations for underage drinking because of the resistance they encountered.

“They still didn’t open the door even though they knew we had a search warrant,” he said. “Then when we did gain access into the residence, people were hiding in closets and everywhere else that they could find.”

A police officer was injured when one person resisted arrest. He spent most of Sunday at South Bend Memorial Hospital.

“He was punched, he was kicked and he did some damage to his knee,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland encouraged students to cooperate if they encounter law enforcement officials. While underage drinking is an arrest-able offense, officers are less likely to incarcerate with cooperation, he said.

“It’s a higher likelihood that you’ll be incarcerated if you try to hide and attempt to destroy evidence and fail to cooperate,” Cleveland said. “It is not our policy to incarcerate everybody that we encounter that is consuming alcohol underage.”

The recent influx in arrests for underage drinking has many students on edge.

Junior Sarah Beringer said “a ton of people are talking about it.”

“A lot of people are more scared,” she said. “And some are really pissed off.”

Junior Nick Grasberger said he has noticed a large increase in incidents.

“This year, so many more people have been arrested as opposed to just written up,” he said. “This year is unprecedented to the point where you don’t really feel safe anywhere.”

The large number of arrests has driven students to change their habits when it comes to weekend activities. For Beringer, it means staying sober when venturing off campus. For Grasberger, who lives in St. Edward’s Hall, it sometimes means not going off campus at all.

“We’ve had a couple parties in St. Ed’s as opposed to just going straight off campus,” he said. “Then when I have gone off campus, I haven’t stayed anywhere too long.”

Grasberger said the arrests are especially notable because there may be other crimes occurring in the area that could have more of an impact.

“The South Bend police are not focusing on the things that are important for law enforcement. When you’re out busting parties to get money at the expense of preventing actual crime in a town where crime is a real issue, then that’s a problem,” he said. “The priorities of legal authorities have to be elsewhere.”