Response in Castleton to underage drinking
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | November 14,2012
CASTLETON — Raids last weekend at a pair of parties involving underage drinking weren’t the first time this semester that Castleton State College and law enforcement officials have dealt with alcohol-related issues.
College officials say since students arrived on campus this fall they have been sending the message that students are expected to be good neighbors in the community.
But law enforcement officers say they’ve seen an increase in the number and size of parties involving alcohol use and consumption by minors.
Officers from three different agencies working in concert broke up a pair of parties Saturday — one of which involved dozens of participants while the other, located just off the Castleton State College campus on South Street, involved hundreds of people.
Incidents involving alcohol are a fact of life on every college campus but Vermont Department of Liquor Control Investigator Michael Davidson said the number and size of the parties that law enforcement have dealt with this year are greater than they’ve been in years past.
“In 22 years this is the worst I’ve seen it,” said Michael Davidson, an investigator with the Vermont Department of Liquor Control. “I can’t put my finger on why it’s worse but it is. We’re getting complaints about noise, vandalism and littering. The community is in an uproar.”
While no injuries or acts of violence have been reported in relation to alcohol use in the community this semester, Davidson said he and other law enforcement have responded to eight “major party locations” where anywhere from 200 to 400 people have been present.
Davidson said he didn’t believe that all of the people drinking at those locations were students at the local college or underage. But he said based on interviews many participants were students at CSC and under the age of 21.
“We went to one up on Sand Hill where they had a band in the parking lot and hundreds of people. We only had four people on and when we went up there they just ran everywhere,” he said.
Davidson said he didn’t know how many criminal and civil violations had been issued during the semester. But at just two locations earlier this fall, he said 37 civil tickets had been issued to underage people who were allegedly drinking and a number of criminal citations have been issued to those hosting the parties for allegedly enabling minors to consume alcohol.
Last weekend, about a dozen more civil tickets were issued and four people were issued criminal citations when members of a Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team detail interrupted parties on Mechanic Street and on South Street.
At the South Street party, Vermont State Police Sgt. Joel Davidson said at least 200 people were in or around the raised ranch-style house where the party was held.
“They were packed in there like cordwood,” said Joel Davidson, who discovered the party while driving by.
The sergeant said he believed most of the participants were students at the college, where the last football game of the season had taken place hours before, and he said he believed most were under the age of 21 based on the large number that fled.
But longtime Castleton Police Chief Bruce Sherwin said that oftentimes people at drinking parties in the area aren’t from the college.
“This isn’t 100 percent Castleton State College students,“ Sherwin said. “A lot of the time the whole campus gets blamed for these parties when there are other people involved too,”
Sherwin and officials at the college said they also work closely to discourage alcohol-fueled events.
CSC President David Wolk said he began the semester by issuing a message to the students that everyone on campus has a “responsibility to be good neighbors” and college public safety officials visited homes near the campus prior to the start of the semester to inform neighbors about who they should call if problems involving students arose. The college also contributed $5,000 to Castleton police this fall to pay for additional officers to patrol during the night on weekends.
“We report to police any parties that we’re aware of,” Wolk said. “I know some students don’t like that but I want our college to be a good neighbor.”
“I have no tolerance for disrespectful or disruptive behavior whether it’s on or off campus,” he added.
The Spartans football coach has already taken disciplinary action against two players who were issued criminal citations over the weekend for allegedly enabling the consumption of alcohol by minors. College officials said Monday that seniors Cameron M. Laundry, 21, and Cleveland A. Burwell, 22, will sit on the sidelines Saturday when the Spartans play a bowl game.
Laundry and Burwell along with other students arrested or issued civil violations involving alcohol also face additional sanctions through the college’s judicial process should they be found in violation of the school’s rules.