Hanover Police announces alcohol compliance ‘sting operations’
By Marina Villeneuve
Published on Thursday, February 4, 2010
At a tense meeting with Greek organization leaders and advisers Thursday evening, Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone announced plans to launch compliance checks, or “sting operations,” in the coming months to combat a perceived rise in alcohol use and abuse by underage individuals. The announcement quickly incited frustration among Dartmouth students, many of whom said it will make the Greek system less welcoming and will also increase the dangers associated with drinking.
The planned compliance checks will combat underage drinking and unsafe alcohol consumption facilitated by Greek organizations, he said. As part of the compliance checks, Hanover Police plans to send non-police operatives posing as underage individuals into Greek organizations’ physical plants during parties to see if they are able to procure alcohol, he said. Hanover Police could then use the information as cause to arrest individuals or bring further legal action against Greek organizations.
Operatives not carrying surveillance equipment can legally enter any Greek organization as long as he or she “enters through normal egresses,” Giaccone said in the interview. If asked, underage operatives would need to present a legitimate form of identification, but those over 21 could present a “fake I.D.” that would not include accurate personal information, Giaccone said. Giaccone declined to specify who the operatives might be.
“Any information that they develop as a result could establish probable cause [for further legal action],” Giaccone said.
Greek organizations can be tried as corporations, and can be charged with reckless conduct, a felony-level fine, for providing alcohol to those underage, according to a 1997 state Supreme Court decision regarding a fraternity at the University of New Hampshire.
With evidence that Greek organizations are supplying underage individuals with alcohol, the organization can be fined from $2,000 for a misdemeanor to $100,000 for a felony, according to Christopher O’Connor, a Grafton County prosecutor who was at the meeting.
“We have given you the [information], now you can decide what to do with it,” O’Connor said, explaining why Hanover Police called the meeting with Greek leaders.
Students, alumni and advisers at the meeting called compliance checks “counterproductive” and pointed to the increased dangers that the policy would spark.
“This will drive drinking underground,” said John Alekna ’10, the president of Phi Delta Alpha fraternity.
“How does this help kids deal with over-consumption?” said Joe Asch ’79, a petition candidate for the upcoming Board of Trustees election and Hanover resident. “This will make kids hide, they’re not going to stop.”
Greek leaders and advisers said they feared the repercussions the new policy may have on the future of Dartmouth Greek life.
“If we close down Greek Houses [because of inability to pay a fine], it will destroy our normal welcoming atmospheres,” Alekna said.
Students suggested partnering with the Hanover Police Department to create dialogue across campus about the issue.
“This is not a way to effect change — change comes from intrinsic motivation,” said Zakieh Bigio ’10, the president of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, a local sorority. “We should be partnering up, coming together, addressing issues because we want to, and not because we’re afraid. This is squashing the momentum of what we’ve been working on.”
The Dean of the College Office will facilitate discussion between Hanover Police and students, interim Associate Dean of the College Harry Kinne said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
“We want to work with student groups to ensure safety on campus and further create dialogue with Hanover Police,” said Kinne.
Safety and Security would be willing to work with and assist organizations to achieve compliance with police standards, Kinne said. Kinne previously served as Head of Safety and Security for the College.
Giaccone pointed to rising instances of alcohol arrests and sexual assaults at Dartmouth as the motivation behind the compliance checks.
Seventy-five students have been arrested for alcohol-related issues since September 2009, and 47 have required medical treatment, which Giaccone said is an increase from past years. He did not specify the number of individuals who had to receive medical treatment for alcohol-related issues before then, but said that from July 2008 to June 2009, there were 162 alcohol-related arrests.
Eleven students were victims of alcohol-related sexual assault in 2008, Giaccone said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
When contacted by The Dartmouth, College Director of Media Relations Roland Adams said he had not been previously notified of the change in policy.
College President Jim Yong Kim was unavailable for comment.