By DOUGLAS SCHULTZ
Since the beginning of the school year, 73 students have been arrested by Fredericksburg Police, 42 of which have taken place in 2012, according to a report by Natatia Bledsoe, the Public Information Officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
The majority of the arrests have been for violations of the noise ordinance and for underage possession of alcohol.
The greater amount of student arrests may be a response to the new emphasis on the city’s nuisance and noise ordinances in an effort to curtail poor off-campus behavior from UMW students.
According to a statement from Bledsoe to the Fredericksburg Patch, “Since the beginning of the school year, the City has seen an increase in complaints specifically related to UMW student behavior off campus, with the complaints focusing on noise, trash, and irresponsible alcohol consumption that has an adverse impact on the other residents of the neighborhood.”
According to Bledsoe, an overtim detail that specifically addresses alcohol violations and party-related complaints has identified addresses with repeat noise or alcohol violations.
“Not all of these locations are college students, but a number of them are,” said Bledsoe.
Although the amount of arrests has increased, Bledsoe suspects that this can be attributed to increased enforcement, rather than an increase in offenses.
“This is new for us, that’s never been the way that we did this kind of activity. In the past, it’s always been complaint driven. This is different for us in that we are taking a more proactive approach.”
Although the police still do respond to party complaints, the increase in arrests has happened in large part because of a focus on students in transit.
“Instead of responding to the parties, our officers encounter students just walking,” said Bledsoe. “We are having more contact with students, not at a party, but on the way to or from a party. We have found that many of the offenses come from these encounters.”
Additionally, when officers break up parties, they have an emphasis on rooting out underage drinkers.
According to Bledsoe, there have been many occasions when officers identify underage drinkers while checking ID’s as students leave.
“If we can identify underage drinkers, we don’t want that person getting into a car, or finding them unconscious in a gutter somewhere. We are trying to be more proactive from a safety standpoint,” said Bledsoe.
While the increased community complaints may signal a growing tension between the city and students, Jake Baskin, a senior creative writing major, does not believe that the actions of some define the entire Mary Washington student body.
“I think it’s a mistake any time that people point out the actions of a few and attribute them to the whole,” said Baskin. “I’m sure there are some college students who have peed on cars or thrown beer bottles, but not all of us.”
Baskin also thinks that a way to alleviate this issue is through an improved relationship between students and their neighbors.
“I feel that there should be a better line of communication between residents and students instead of blaming the entire university,” Baskin suggested.
Despite the increased arrest rate, not all students are convinced that this will stop student partying. Chris Marino, a senior English Major, is not sure how much community improvement the arrests will bring.
“You’re not going to stop underage drinking. It’s not possible. Having a fear of being arrested isn’t going to help the situation,” said Marino.
Although Marino is of legal drinking age, he still felt the effects of the city’s efforts to curtail partying are negatively impacting his college experience.
“It’s getting harder for me to suggest this school for people because it’s much less easy to have fun,” said Marino. “College is a learning experience both in and out of the classroom. You learn about yourself and your limits, in that way alcohol is sometimes a large part of college.”