On the heels of recent national headlines, Miami University students are gaining attention once again for their drinking behavior.
According to Oxford Police Department (OPD) Sgt. Jim Squance, the number of underage drinking arrests has greatly increased in the 2010-2011 school year. Since the beginning of August, Squance said there have been 102 reports of underage drinking in Oxford. During the same time period in 2009, that number was approximately 57 and in 2008 it totaled approximately 89.
Oxford Mayor Richard Keebler has also noticed the increase in underage drinking reports.
“It appears that there have been a lot of arrests and a lot of citations and I hope they keep that up,” Keebler said during a Sept. 7 city council meeting. “It continues to be disappointing to me to see the behavior that is coming from underage drinkers in this town.”
Squance attributes the significant number of reports to nice weather and an increase in alcohol enforcement measures taken by OPD.
“We’ve stepped up our alcohol enforcement at the beginning of the school year,” Squance said. “Our goal is to set the tone for the rest of the year for alcohol and all of the things that go along with it.”
Squance said the majority of the violations have been committed by 18 and 19-year-old students, which concerns him.
“They’ve come to school with their fake IDs,” Squance said. “This tells me a lot of kids may have come here with a culture conducive to drinking large amounts of alcohol.”
Keebler expressed concern about this issue and has seen the consequences that stem from it.
“I’m very disappointed in what appears to be the number of 18 and 19-year-olds who are underage drinking,” Keebler said. “I think people need to read these reports. We had two police officers injured recently in attempting to stop an underage drinker.”
According to Squance, OPD is cracking down on alcohol consumption in order to decrease instances of other crimes it may cause, including assault and disorderly conduct.
Squance said the enforcement, however, is not significantly more than OPD has used in previous years. However, the department has been using an increased number of both plain clothes and uniformed officers to aggressively search bars for underage and overly intoxicated individuals on Thursday through Saturday nights.
According to Squance, a further crackdown on underage drinking could only be achieved with more officers on duty during busy times uptown.
“The more manpower we throw at the issue, the better the results,” Squance said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the personnel to do that right now.”
“I wish there were more things we could do about it,” Keebler said. “I think unfortunately it’s a problem that is beyond Oxford and I hope that Miami University works through their disciplinary board to make this a more serious thing.”
According to Squance, Miami has a huge role in cutting down underage drinking in Oxford because it poses a more real threat to students.
“The university position on how they deal with alcohol-related violations and honesty violations (having a fake ID) has a bigger deterrent on Miami students than what the court system does,” Squance said.
Susan Vaughn, director of Miami’s Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution, said her office as actually seen a decrease in alcohol-related reports since the beginning of the school year, but agrees that Miami’s disciplinary actions can have a larger effect on student behavior.
According to Vaughn, students have a precedent to look to.
“Students know what’s going to happen to them at a minimum because of what is written in the Code of Conduct,” Vaughn said.