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Police combat underage drinking

Megan Doyle | Monday, December 3, 2012

As tailgating officially ends with the close of the home football season, the Indiana State Excise Police will continue to target underage drinking in South Bend through the Intensified College Enforcement (ICE) program.

Excise Police added the University to the program, a product of a federal grand funding additional police presence around college campuses in Indiana, this fall. Notre Dame joined five other Indiana universities in the program, which began in the spring – Ball State University, Butler University, Indiana University, Indiana State University and Purdue University.

Excise Police officers have made a total of 138 arrests during tailgates this year, according to press releases throughout the home football season. That number does include non-students.

Cpl. Travis Thickstun, public information office for the Excise Police, said he cannot yet measure the value of the program in South Bend.

“It will be some time yet before we can accurately gauge the program’s success, but it will not be measured by the number of tickets we issue,” Thickstun said. “Our goal is not to issue tickets or make arrests. Our goal is to reduce underage drinking.”

The most common charge among arrests was illegal consumption or possession of alcohol by a minor, according to Indiana State Excise Police press releases. Other frequent charges included possession of false identification and public intoxication.

“This is why we wanted to have a very public campaign to let folks in these six communities and on these six college campuses know about the increased enforcement the program results in,” Thickstun said. “We don’t want it to be a secret because we want to reduce the number of young people who consume alcohol underage.”

Thickstun said Excise Police officers in South Bend have had “positive and cordial” interactions with students and other guests to campus while operating under the ICE program.

“Individuals have been conducting themselves in a responsible manner during their interactions with our officers,” he said.

When an Excise Police officer makes an arrest during tailgating, Thickstun said that individual is taken to the stadium jail for processing and then usually transported to the St. Joseph County Jail.

“The arrest paperwork is forwarded to the St. Joseph Prosecutor’s Office for review and filing of formal charges,” he said. “If a citation is issued by an Excise officer, the report is also forwarded to the prosecutor’s office for review and charges, at which time the person cited would be notified for a court appearance.”

Thickstun said Excise Police would continue to be present in the South Bend area despite the conclusion of the regular football season.

In an interview earlier this year, student body president Brett Rocheleau said not all arrests result in the officer transporting the student to the county jail.

“While there could have been students incarcerated … a lot of it depends on the circumstances and how the student has been interacting with police,” he said.

Student government hosted a safety summit earlier this year with local and state police officers to inform students about their interactions with law enforcement.

“Their message is basically if you’re under the age of 21, you should not be consuming alcohol, going into liquor stores or going into bars,” Rocheleau said.

A group of undercover Excise Police officers approached senior Lisa Daul during tailgating before a football game this year and asked for her ID.

“I had never seen or had any experiences with undercover cops before,” she said. “That surprised me a lot actually. They identified themselves as cops before they asked for my ID.”

Daul and a friend, who are both 21, were walking between tailgates and carrying beer cans when the officers approached them. The officers were polite and let the girls continue walking when they had reviewed both IDs, she said.

“I feel like there’s been general talk of cops cracking down. … I think if I was under 21, it would probably affect me more and play a bigger role in my decision making,” she said.