Boston Police Crack Down on Infractions
City Widens No Tolerance Alcohol PolicyBy Brian Keegan
The Boston Police are expanding a “zero tolerance” policy for alcohol, noise, and nuisance violations to the city-wide level in response to a trend of increasingly disruptive behavior from students living off-campus in the neighborhoods surrounding Northeastern University, Boston University, and Boston College.
The policy, initially implemented in just one district, aims to enforce laws against underage drinking, illegal housing, landlords housing raucous tenants, fake IDs, and excessive noise.
A no-tolerance policy has been in place for the past eight years in Boston Police District 14, which covers Allston and Brighton and includes the BU and BC campuses.
Following the death of Northeastern University student James Grabowski during rioting after this year’s Patriots Super Bowl game, the District 14 program caught the attention of community leaders, and similar measures are now being brought to more districts around Boston.
“Student behavior has increasingly become a problem with a large group of people. It’s become an issue of public safety,” said Boston City Councillor Michael Ross.
Ross, representing District 8, invited the local residents and the student governments and school administrators from Northeastern, BU, BC, Suffolk University, Harvard University, and MIT to an open hearing last spring concerning the unrest in Kenmore Square and Allston.
John R. Velasco ’05 attended the hearing with other members of the Boston Intercollegiate Government. “It was a meeting for the administrators and student leaders of the universities to demonstrate what steps they were taking to control alcohol and students living off-campus,” he said.
At the meeting, Ross cited MIT policies under Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict as effective examples of a university working to curb excessive partying and underage drinking. “Dean Benedict has been immensely helpful, and I know other schools have sought to adopt similar policies,” he said.
District 14 is model
District 14 Commander Captain William B. Evans has spearheaded programs throughout the past eight years to crack down on student misbehavior, programs which now serve as a model for other districts.
“We are trying to change the crazy culture that embraces underage drinking, loud parties, and doing whatever you want as right of passage,” he said. Disruptive students “are ruining the quality of life for people who live and work in these neighborhoods.”
Through appearances at freshmen orientation programs and working with the administration at schools like BU and BC, the police department has let students know that misbehavior can put them in both legal and academic trouble.
According to the District 14 Web site, police take steps such as undercover stings to ensure “this policy [is] not taken lightly.” Evans said that there have been arrests as a result of sting operations involving undercover officers. These stings seek to cut down on underage drinking by checking for liquor stores that accept fake IDs and for people who purchase alcohol legally but then distribute it to minors.
Evans said that in his district, the officers will only show up to a party if a complaint has been called in. He dispatches as many as six cars per night on weekends to respond to “out-of-control student parties.”
“We’re not anti-party, but if you’re engaged in activities that disturb the peace, the kind of things you wouldn’t want going on around your home, we have to step in and protect people,” he said.
Boston fraternities aware
The MIT Interfraternity Council was made aware of this new policy in early September. IFC President Daniel H. Daneshvar ’05 said the issue of increased Boston Police surveillance and intervention has been brought up at the last two meetings of the IFC Presidents’ Council.
“The IFC is working together with its risk management consultants and the individual houses to implement plans that don’t give the Boston Police any reason to show up,” he said. “We’re walking around on weekend nights making sure there isn’t loud music, large crowds, or other activities that disturb the neighborhood.”
Velasco said that at the hearing, many Boston residents said the MIT fraternities were model neighbors.
Trouble on Beacon St.
Over the summer, some brothers and summer residents at Theta Chi may have been the victims of police overzealousness as a result of the “zero tolerance” policy.
A Boston Police officer entered the house and said his cruiser was hit by a water balloon fired from the roof of the house. Theta Chi Vice President Jonathon R. Long ’06 said a second officer appeared on the scene and handcuffed five fraternity members, including himself, together and rounded up ten other summer boarders.
“He was very aggressive and kept demanding to know who was responsible, even though none of us understood what was going on,” Long said. “He threatened to book us on charges of having a disreputable house and illegal rooming situation if we didn’t cooperate. They didn’t listen to what we were saying and refused to call MIT Police.”
MIT Police showed up at the house after another 10 minutes, though it is not clear who called them. They calmed the irate officers down enough to release the Theta Chi brothers and let MIT Police handle the situation.
Long said he “understands that they’re looking out for everyone’s safety,” but they should not overreact because “over-aggression will create a negative attitude and make it harder for the police to do their job in an atmosphere where they’re disrespected.”
Off-campus housing targeted
Sarah E. Gallop, co-director of the MIT Office of Government and Community Relations, said that following the riots after the Patriots game, the City of Boston contacted MIT concerning students living off campus.
“We attended meetings with the Boston Police, Boston Licensing Board, and other community groups about students living in off-campus housing,” she said. “But having large numbers of students living in off-campus housing is not an issue at MIT.”
MIT fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups generally do not fall under off-campus housing rules because they are recognized by MIT as student housing, said Gallop.
“We are aware and will continue to cooperate with Boston organizations and policies governing student housing,” she said.
Schools should be accountable
Ross recently introduced an ordinance that would require universities to keep track of and provide authorities with information about students living in off-campus housing.
“The city doesn’t have the resources to keep police on call for college parties when there are other significant public safety and national security issues for them to address,” said Ross.
Ross believes that by making universities accountable and responsible for all of its students, including those off-campus, will reduce the BPD’s load.
MIT Police Deputy Chief John E. Driscoll of MIT Police said he is familiar with working with BPD. He said that while BPD may sometimes be willing to turn over control of a scene to MIT Police, as was the case with Theta Chi, they are not required to do so. BPD retains the primary jurisdiction and right to arrest in any case within Boston.
While this new policy may cause an increased Boston Police presence at FSILGs, Daniel Trujillo, associate dean of community development and substance abuse, maintains that contacting the MIT Police is “your best bet and first call” if trouble arises.