The new semester started off with a string of alcohol-related charges levied against students, but Williamstown police say the number of arrests was not unusual or unexpected. Three male students, one sophomore and two first year students were arrested.
According to information provided by the students themselves and confirmed by the police log, shortly after midnight on September 13 a Williams student was arrested on Park Street for violating the open container law.
The student appeared to be underage, so he was apprehended and brought to the police station for questioning. When the arresting officer took an inventory of the student’s belongings, he found a fake identification card in his wallet. The student was therefore charged both for underage drinking and possession of false identification.
An hour after the first arrest, a second Williams student was apprehended for similar reasons. Police initially arrested the student on a charge of disorderly conduct, and later discovered that he also had a false identification card in his wallet.
Within 40 minutes, the police made yet another arrest. A student left Mission with a bottle of alcohol in his pocket. The police stopped him on Park Street and charged him with violation of the open container law and with underage possession of alcohol.
Chief of Police Michael Kennedy said the students will be tried in local courts. If they are found guilty, disciplinary action by the college â€“ such as probation or sanctions â€“ may result. All three declined comment for this article.
Kennedy said he is not particularly concerned about the arrests.
“Three arrests in the first three weeks. Hell, that’s goodâ€” though none would be better,” he said.
He noted that in past years — before the College’s new party policy went into effect — the police have had to provide extra coverage on the first few weekends of the school year and have made far more arrests.
“We don’t have to put anybody extra on in the first few weekends anymore,” he said. “We don’t have a big problem here. We (used to) have a big problem.”
Kennedy emphasized that the Williamstown police does not come into contact with the bulk of the underage drinking on campus.
He added that he knows underage drinking still occurs despite the College’s new party policy.
“If we don’t have occasion to go to the party, we don’t see underage drinking,” he said. “I don’t think we could just walk into parties without some reasonable cause.”
He added that noise complaints, stumbling students, or student vandalism all qualify as reasons why the police may become involved at a College party.
“We will enforce the laws,” Kennedy said. “Not to make a criminal out of you, nobody wants to make a criminal out of you, but to send a message.”
Assistant Director of Campus Security David Boyer echoed Kennedy in his advice to students.
“Follow the law,” he said. “Don’t carry any containers with you from party to party. Don’t give a reason for attention. Walk quietly from party to party. These will give fewer reasons for police intervention.”
Boyer added that the Williamstown police has been reasonable in allowing Security to control events on campus.
“I think they’ve been fair about letting the College handle its problems on campus,” he said. “These arrests were all on public ways and town property not belonging to the college.”
Boyer said he usually does observe an increase in police coverage at the beginning of the year and on notorious party weekends.
“They try and set the tone for the year,” he noted. “Extra enforcement at this time of year can prevent problems later. I’m sure we can expect heavier controls more concentrated in the downtown area.”
Ben Smeal ’00 said he noticed a stronger police presence over the weekend “The fact that there were two Williamstown Police Department cruisers waiting on Route 2 â€“ I’m not a big fan of that,” he said.
“There are laws, and if people don’t follow them, they have to face the consequences,” Smeal said. “Whatever happened to them is probably deserved.”
Dave Erickson ’00 responded similarly: “I think it’s terrible. It’s unfortunate that someone who is 18 years old is going to have a record for something which in the grand scheme of things is minor.” Erickson also said, “At the same time, you have to be smart about things. You have to know the law.”
As Junior Advisor in East 2 and JA Co-President, Erickson has not only had the responsibility of following the laws himself, but also of conveying the laws to the new members of the Williams community. He said he has discussed the law and the party policy with his freshmen.
“I’ve basically told the rules to my freshmen. I’ve said, ‘Security is your friend. Security will help you. Also, do not go outside with an open container. In the end, though, you are an adult and you are responsible for your actions.”
“I think that Security does a pretty good job taking care of parties and students drinking on campus,” she said. “But the cops are around so it’s kind of up to students to be responsible,” said Julie Sandy ’00.
Edith Middleton ’02 said she took the incident less seriously: “I think it’s funny. It gives us something to talk about â€“ people getting busted.”
“I think it’s silly that someone would be prosecuted for open container. They should just get a warning,” said Carissa Carter ’01.