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Council to Meet with PADA to Discuss Underage Drinking Issues in Borough

Candace Braun

A Princeton advisory board will present a report to the Borough Council next month that outlines information it has gathered on substance abuse in the community.

The report, which was compiled over the last six months, will be submitted by the Princeton Alcohol and Drug Alliance, an advisory board to promote the advocacy, education and provision of resources for the prevention of substance abuse. The board is a joint municipal alliance between the Borough and Township, comprised of residents, elected officials, and school board representatives.

The report stems from a lengthy discussion in April by the Council concerning an ordinance that would make it unlawful for those under 21 to possess or consume alcoholic beverages on private property. One of the main concerns brought up at that time was that the ordinance would not have any teeth to reduce underage drinking in the Borough since it can only be enforced if an officer enters private property by invitation or because of an emergency.

Mercer County municipalities were asked to adopt ordinances against underage drinking on private property in 2000, when Gov. Christie Whitman signed legislation allowing such ordinances. Since then, Ewing, Lawrence, and West Windsor Townships have put such laws into effect.

Underage drinking has been a problem in various locations in the Borough in the past, however the University's 11 eating clubs, which are considered private property, are often the most troublesome.

Currently, if a police officer enters an eating club because of an emergency or private investigation, he can only fine the club's owners, and not the minors who are drinking. However if the drinking ordinance were adopted, both the owners and the minors drinking would be written up. This poses a problem for private residents, who enjoy occasional parties in their home, where alcohol is present.

Overall, police issued 24 open container violations in September, nine violations for minors in possession of alcohol, four violations for public urination, and 10 littering violations.

"Experience has shown us that when students first come back, more instances occur," said Lt. Dennis Manimon of the Borough Police. "[September] was an eye-opening experience."

At the University, an annual crime report published in October cited 46 reported liquor law violations on campus, and 43 in residential facilities in 2002.

The serving of alcohol to minors, as well as excessive drinking and noise violations, are all problems Borough Police must confront constantly, said Chief Chuck Davall. And, short of an ordinance, several precautions are taken each year to battle the underage drinking that takes place.

For example, Chief Davall met with presidents of the various eating clubs recently to discuss ways in which they can monitor social events so that underage drinking and binge drinking do not occur. He reviewed quality-of-life ordinances in the Borough, which ban open alcohol containers in public, minors in possession of alcohol, urinating in public, and littering.

When warnings do not deter minors from following Borough ordinances, police issue a court summons to those who are caught breaking the law. Typically, violators are fined $100 for their first offense and $200 for their second offense, with a maximum fine of $1,000, said Lt. Dennis Manimon of the Borough Police.

"Typically the judge talks to them and makes them reflect on what they've done," said Lt. Manimon. He said the judge often asks the individual to research and write a paper relating to the ordinance they have violated.

Enforcing Ordinances

Another way the Borough Police is currently trying to counter underage drinking is through a program called, Cops and Shops. This program brings the police and liquor stores together in an agreement to monitor those who try to buy alcohol underage. The state funds the program, which involves police coming out to liquor stores in plain clothing two or three times per month for four-hour intervals. The policemen go into the store and pose as workers so they can monitor the abuse of false IDs.

"Typically the liquor stores cooperate," said Lt. Manimon. Another program, called SUDS, which stands for Stop Underage Drinking, is an educational program the police have instituted with all the licensed liquor stores in town. The program teaches business workers how to identify false IDs, and to use the code word "SUDS" when they need police to respond to a liquor violation.

According to Lt. Manimon, if a liquor store is found to serve someone under 21, they are shut down, sometimes for two days, which can hurt their business, particularly on a weekend. There isn't a particular trend with those buying alcohol underage, he said. Students, as well as high schoolers, attempt to buy alcohol. Sometimes the precinct receives two calls in one night to come and issue a summons, and sometimes they don't receive any calls for an entire month, said Lt. Manimon.

Alcohol in the Borough

Police have also tried to combat the drinking problem by enforcing existing ordinances at targeted locations. At the start of classes in September, police watched for students in violation of Borough ordinances, and found a 22-year-old female roaming the grounds on Prospect Avenue with an open alcoholic beverage. When stopped by police, the woman refused to give her name and caused a laceration to the officer's face while resisting arrest.

Particularly when the weather is warmer, many students wander from club to club with open cups of beer or mixed drinks, said Lt. Manimon.

Police try to combat the problem by monitoring Prospect Avenue during weekends that are known to be the most problematic, such as football weekends, or when students are trying to join eating clubs.

Public urination is also a public health hazard that goes along with alcohol abuse, said Lt. Manimon. On September 28, a 15-year-old was found urinating on Nassau Street, who claimed to have been drinking at an eating club at the University.

"It is definitely a quality of life concern," said Lt. Manimon. "We are trying to crack down on these issues."

However it is not always students who are in violation of Borough ordinances, he said. He said that approximately one week ago a man was issued a summons twice for public urination on Lytle Street. The man, who was not a minor, had given a false alias.

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