University Police
University Police

Alcohol-related citations from police and the university were down significantly this semester, in part because changes in protocol and awareness of the Good Samaritan policy.

The drop, from 73 alcohol-related charges in fall 2011 to 15 this semester, marks a year since officials implemented the Good Samaritan policy — the protocol protects dangerously intoxicated students from university sanctions if an individual calls emergency medical services for them.

There is no way to know what effect the Good Samaritan policy has on these numbers, University Police spokesman Capt. Marc Limansky said, though adjusting to a recent change in protocol may have also contributed to the drop. Before 2010, police were able to cite individuals for providing minors with alcohol, but now officers must serve a warrant.

The Office of Student Conduct has also seen its alcohol referrals in the fall semester steadily decline since 2008, from 198 students to 144 this semester, according to Director Andrea Goodwin.

“It’s really hard to tell [why],” Goodwin said. “Maybe it’s because there’s more awareness.”

Police, faculty and RAs may refer students for attending athletic events intoxicated, carrying open containers, underage drinking in dorms and other similar violations, including medical transports.

Last year’s amped up enforcement could also be deterring students from irresponsible drinking, Limansky said. In fall 2011, a portion of a $30,000 state grant allowed University Police to pay officers overtime to combat alcohol-related offenses. While police used just $11,500 of the grant last year, officers said they lacked some manpower this fall without the additional resources.

A spike in alcohol-related medical transports within the first weekend of the semester alarmed police — 28 people were hospitalized, compared to 15 in 2011 and nine in 2010 — but the number of incidents throughout the semester was on par with past periods. Thirty-nine students have been transported so far this year, up three from the same period last year, according to University Police.

“At the beginning of the year, it started to look a bit unusual,” Limansky said. “But we didn’t really change anything.”

Despite requiring emergency medical interventions, several students who were hospitalized this semester said they have not cut back on their drinking. Jeff, whose last name is withheld because he discusses illegal activities, said he vaguely remembers his trip to the hospital in early September. The freshman chemistry major said he attended a fraternity party and was so intoxicated he was unable to swipe into his dorm, he said.

Police found Jeff unresponsive near Byrd Stadium, and he was transported to the hospital. The next thing he can recall is a nurse struggling to put an IV in his arm, Jeff said. He walked back to the campus the next morning.

Jeff said he continues to drink, but he exercises caution by staying put if he is too intoxicated and is far from his dorm.

“I still get hammered,” Jeff said. “The times I do drink, I go all out.”

Most alcohol-related incidents happen in the first month of school — mostly due to the nice weather and incoming freshmen, Limansky said. As the semester moves along, the number of transports normally tapers off.

Goodwin couldn’t give an exact reason for the drop in referrals, but said education may play a role. Student Conduct uses a community-based approach to raise awareness among high-risk groups, said Amanda Long, a coordinator in the University Health Center’s College Environment Safety program.

“I work with many student groups and classes, but have been really focusing on student-athletes, members of Greek organizations and first-year students as they are all identified as high-risk population,” she wrote in an email.

Some students said they noticed the drop in alcohol-related incidents. Emma Murray, a CA and sophomore psychology major, said she witnessed just a few drunk students while working at the Denton Hall desk, far fewer than she expected.

The decline in alcohol-related offenses isn’t exclusive to the university community. University of Virginia Police also reported a drop in alcohol-related offenses, according to that university’s Crime Prevention Coordinator Angela Tabler.

Violations have been down, Tabler said, especially at football games, and the community-based educational approach has helped curb incidents.

“In the last year, we’ve gotten so many more resources involved,” Tabler said. “This is something I hope to see continue.”

College students nationwide reported binge drinking less, according to a 2011 study by the University of Michigan. The proportion of students who reported drinking five or more drinks at one time in the previous two weeks dropped by 16 percent from 1991 to 2011, according to the study.

These national statistics and trends could have an impact on future university alcohol numbers, according to Long.

“Some researchers suggest that the number of high school students choosing to abstain from alcohol is on the rise,” Long wrote. “That means that the number of abstainers on our campus will also rise and could potentially impact student drinking culture at Maryland.”

Although the declining number of binge drinkers is a welcome sign, police are not completely satisfied, Limansky said. There is always room for more action, but he said there are no planned changes in enforcement for the upcoming semester.

“The risk is always there. Seeing people [with blood alcohol content] in the 0.2’s, 0.3’s, 0.4’s is very dangerous,” he said. “We can’t say we’re pleased. We don’t want to rest on our laurels.”