Students who drink underage and abuse alcohol in Chapel Hill might have a greater chance of getting caught this year.
Police have responded to 40 incidences of underage drinking already this year, compared to a total of 67 in 2010, said Lt. Kevin Gunter, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department.
He said that number is on track for a substantial overall increase from 2010 — but police don’t think the upswing necessarily comes from a rise in student drinking.
“The spike in numbers may reflect a change in enforcement,” Gunter said.
“We recently created a team dedicated to alcohol-related cases, and their work has allowed us to enforce drinking laws more effectively.”
He said the town’s Alcohol Law Enforcement Response Team is in its third year and has grown into an effective means of enforcement.
The team was created to supplement regular alcohol-related enforcement and is composed of officers from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC Public Safety.
The team has undercover operations in the area and has conducted campaigns against underage drinking this year.
Gunter said though high school students are sometimes cited during those campaigns, most citations involve UNC students.
And he said students’ drinking has created problems in both on- and off-campus communities.
“One of the areas we see the community affected by alcohol-related incidences with the University is in the residential areas,” Gunter said.
“In most cases, we receive a call from someone complaining about a nuisance like loud music or loud talking.”
But the problems go beyond noise complaints, he said.
“We respond to a lot of fights in and outside of bars and vandalism, most of which is precipitated by too much alcohol,” Gunter said.
Dean Blackburn, assistant dean of students, said students who are impaired are usually more vulnerable to crimes.
“Perpetrators of a crime know this and will often come to an area that is student dense in order to prey on impaired students,” Blackburn said in an email.
In the hopes of combating such effects, Chapel Hill police created “Be a Responsible Server” to get businesses to enforce alcohol laws.
Program seminars teach employees about underage drinking laws.
And on campus, researchers with the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies said they hope to educate students on the dangers of heavy drinking.
“Students need to know that binge alcohol consumption is deleterious,” said Leslie Morrow, the program’s associate director.
Fulton Crews, director of the center, said students have asked campus health to look into setting up an Alcoholics Anonymous branch on campus, because the Orange County branch is made up of mostly older adults.
And Campus Health Services is trying to combat addiction through intervention and support, said Avery Cook, a clinical social worker.
She said students who receive an alcohol citation must participate in an informational meeting, and students with self-identified problems can access therapy.
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