Waterville police will soon be scoping out Colby student parties in plain clothes and unmarked vehicles, but Brunswick authorities say there are currently no plans to launch undercover operations at Bowdoin.
Following what he sees as an increase in excessive and underage drinking, Waterville Deputy Police Chief Joseph Massey said this week that his department would begin to send undercover police officers to monitor alcohol consumption by Colby students both on-campus and off.
"We have an obligation to provide public safety," Massey said.
Commander Rick Desjardins of the Brunswick Police Department said that while Brunswick officers have engaged in uncover operations to regulate drinking at Bowdoin in the past, they have not done so this school year.
"Those are tactics that occasionally we have used, but we haven't used them recently," he told the Orient.
Desjardins did acknowledge that such operations could be possible in the future if a problem arose.
"We're not there yet," he said.
A Morning Sentinel article about the plan for undercover operations at Colby was posted Tuesday on the Drudge Report, a popular news web site. The Associated Press also picked up the story. Colby spokesperson Stephen Collins acknowledged that there has been considerable media interest in the story.
Responding to the media coverage, Massey said some were blowing the issue out of proportion.
"We're not going to go overboard," he said.
Massey told The Colby Echo?Colby's student newspaper?that approximately 60 Colby students have either been issued a summons or arrested for alcohol violations this year. He speculated that an increase in off-campus arrests is the result of stricter on-campus enforcement by the college, forcing students to drink elsewhere.
Collins disputed that the drinking problem at Colby was increasing.
"All of the evidence shows that the level of alcohol consumption stays fairly consistent from year to year," he said.
He also denied that Colby was making an effort to be more harsh on its students.
"There is certainly not an orchestrated crackdown. There may have been more citations in recent years, but not this semester," Collins said.
Collins noted that the police are within their rights to conduct such operations on campus and that Colby security would be cooperative. He declined to say whether the college was bothered by the potential presence of undercover officers.
Bowdoin Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols told the Orient that Brunswick police would not conduct undercover activity on campus without first coordinating it with his office.
"Our relationship is one of cooperation and mutual respect," he said. "I would not be happy if any law enforcement agency engaged in activities involving Bowdoin students without keeping us fully apprised and informed. I'm glad that's the way it happens down here," Nichols said.
Desjardins agreed that his department works well with Bowdoin.
"We don't work in a vacuum," he said. "Our philosophy has been and will continue to be that the best answer is [to] work with all parties involved."
He attributed his department's success in part to a good relationship with the student body.