The Brunswick Police Department is increasing its enforcement of underage consumption of alcohol around the town of Brunswick and on the Bowdoin campus. According to Community Policing Officer Terry Goan, a new team comprised of himself, Patrol Officer Robert Lane and Detective Aaron Bailey has been set up to increase police presence in the town and at the College to deter those under the age of 21 from drinking.
"So yes, it's been stepped up," Goan said. "We had an appearance at Magee's pub last Thursday. We have some concerns with some of the off-campus housing."
Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols acknowledged the program, but didn't think the difference would be that visible.
"I don't expect students to see much of a change from previous years," he said. "The police have always enforced alcohol laws."
Both Goan and Nichols agreed that the largest part of the program would involve the licensed establishments and retailers in town, and making sure they are educated on fake IDs, to make sure they aren't serving anyone under the age of 21.
"[Tuesday] night we checked 30 to 50 IDs [at Joshua's Tavern]," Goan said. "We will be there again, yes we will be there again."
Goan felt this new enforcement is a big change from the way things were run in the past.
"Since 2003, there has been no liquor enforcement as a state entity," he said. "Since '03 until pretty much now, anybody could do whatever and there wasn't a lot of consequences. [Now] we just brought things back to the forefront, just check for IDs!"
Nichols said he thought Bowdoin students were putting themselves most at risk by going to bars underage or heading to an off-campus house in possession of alcohol.
"Our students have to realize that the bouncers are very well trained at spotting a fake ID," Nichols said.
Nichols was pleased with the way security and the Brunswick police have together.
"We have a very good relationship with the Brunswick police," Nichols said. "Just [Wednesday] night Terry Goan and I went to talk to Red Brick house to help them avoid problems with law enforcement and to talk about safety. Terry wasn't even working, he was off-duty, that says a lot."
Despite the focus on activities in public, the police did make an appearance at an unregistered event at Pine Street apartments last week, and checked on a noise complaint made on an off-campus house on Union Street.
Two of the student-residents at the Pine Street apartment spoke with the Orient, and were granted anonymity to protect their identity. The students said a police car drove into the parking lot behind the apartments, causing some students attending the event to leave from the front side, which in turn caused the policeman to grow suspicious, the students said.
According to the two students, the cop called Bowdoin security to make them aware of the situation, and security officers were dispatched to the apartments where they, along with the policeman, spoke to the residents of the apartment.
"[The officer] said that we were in violation of furnishing a place for minors to consume," one student said. "He said if we had just kept it inside we probably would have been fine."
The students, however, were left with just a warning.
Both Nichols and Goan stressed that their main interest was safety.
"What I try to push is, if someone's going to drink, keep an eye on them," Goan said. "Don't let them walk home by themselves. If they're puking, help them."
Macmillan House President Shem Dixon '11 said he had gotten the impression that the police were upping their enforcement, and was worried before the house's first campus-wide party last Saturday.
"I was very concerned, paranoid, certainly," he said.
Dixon said since the first event went off without incident he will be less worried, but still will keep his guard up.
"I think it was a good thing that I was paranoid, because I was really, really careful about stuff, which is an attitude I will keep for the rest of our events," he said.
Associate Director of Safety and Security Carol McAllister pointed out that because of the Disorderly Property Ordnance, Article III of the Municipal Code of Ordinances for the Town of Brunswick, when the police receive a complaint regarding potential disorderly activity, it is their responsibility to respond and substantiate whether disorderly activity is in occurrence.
McAllister also recognized that while the College has a good relationship with the police, they have the right to deal with a situation themselves.
"Police officers can make the decision that they are going to handle it on their own," she said.
"They're not trying to get a cheap pinch," she added.
This new team is made possible by Communities Against Substance Abuse (CASA), a local organization run through Mid Coast Hospital and headed by Melissa Fochesato.
CASA's funds come mostly from the Office of Substance Abuse from the State of Maine, but the organization has applied for the Drug Free Communities grant, a federal grant run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Some of that money is filtered to the Brunswick Police Department, to pay for the patrols and work of Goan, Lane and Bailey.
Goan said that the increase in patrols and funding did make it more likely for them to be around the campus.
Fochesato said her organization was focusing a lot of its attention on where underage residents get their alcohol.
"We're working with community partners to reduce access," she said.
Fochesato also said that increased surveillance of video cameras on the liquor aisle at retailers and in the parking lot is helping to ensure that no one of age is furnishing alcohol to minors.
Increased enforcement is just one part of CASA's plan. The organization is appealing to the youth directly to try and encourage them to wait until they are 21 before drinking alcohol, and once they are of age, how to drink alcohol responsibly to avoid tragedies.