Thick sheets of rain pelted the pavement outside of Campus Police Headquarters last Thursday night. Inside, the lobby bustled with activity as police officers garbed in protective raingear wheeled out bikes and jovially jested with each other while heading out to work the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. patrol shift. “Time to go to the block party,” one chuckling officer said.
As quickly as the commotion came, it was gone. Soon, crackling radios were the only sources of noise as their blasts of static drowned out the sirens wailing in the distance.
At about 35 minutes past the hour, Cpl. Charles James appeared. A police patrol supervisor, James is responsible for monitoring all of Main Campus. Clad in a bright yellow jacket emblazoned with the words “Temple Police,” he appeared ready to scour the campus for criminal activity.
Leaving 1101 W. Montgomery Ave. in a large sedan squad car, James set out at 11:45 p.m. “The Temple News” accompanied him on his routine late-night stakeout. “If I have to respond to an incident on the way, I ask you to stay in the car,” James said.
“Not to keep you from seeing or hearing
anything, just to keep you safe if something out of the ordinary is going on.”
On a “Thirsty Thursday,” as students dub the popular party night, something out of the ordinary is almost always going on.
“The busiest nights for the alcohol issue
and for this shift are Thursday through Saturday,” James said.
“They’re just the most likely nights it’s going to happen for alcohol issues.”
But the streets, which were slick with rainwater, seemed deserted. Peering out through the waterlogged windshield, James wasn’t optimistic.
“As long as it doesn’t pour hard all night, I’m sure they’ll accommodate your needs. It’s a Thursday night,” he said. Sure enough, at around 20 minutes past midnight, James caught wind of a raging party on Carlisle Street. Informed via police radio about a noise complaint called in by a neighbor, he decided to investigate. Upon arrival at the scene, a squad sport utility vehicle was already stalled in front of a row home. Pulling up behind it, James exited the car and strode toward the front stoop. Along with three other officers, he conversed with two students outside for about five minutes.
“That’s the second [complaint] in less than an hour about the same house,” James said as he slid back into the driver’s seat. “We could hear them playing music from the outside. At this point, it’s just a warning advising them that they need to keep the noise down. If we have to go back again, we suggest that they end their party.”
As he maneuvered the police car across campus, James explained the arrest process for alcohol-related crimes, all of which are labeled as summary offenses. He said alcohol offenders are transported to headquarters to complete paperwork. After signing forms to verify a court date, they are released.
“If they’re severely intoxicated, … we’ll just take them straight to [Temple Hospital] and bypass the summary citation.
They’ll just be dealt with by [the University Disciplinary Committee].
“Before James could say another word, a barrage of yells cut through the silent night air like a knife. He asked, “Did you hear that?” Sighing, James veered left on Diamond Street. “I’ll come back around,” he said.
Slowing to a halt outside of Delta Sigma Phi’s fraternity house at 1430 Diamond St., James rolled down the passenger-side window and scanned the building’s facade. A lone male student loitering in front of the house yelled, “Are you pulling me over?” James yelled back, “Are you driving?” “I’m walking,” said the student.
“Then I’m not pulling you over,” James said.
Under his breath, he added, “That would be the sign that somebody’s had some.” After determining that the fraternity party was “not close enough to a neighbor to cause problems,” James resumed his patrol. At 12:55 a.m., he stopped at a white stucco house at the corner of 17th and Norris Streets. About a dozen students congregated outside. Many were clutching red plastic cups. James stepped out of the car and spoke with them briefly.
“That was one wise guy in the corner,” he said. “It’s a house we’ve gone by a couple of times. First warning on the open containers.” Open containers of alcohol, such as plastic cups and open cans and bottles, are prohibited outdoors, James said. He was promptly cut off by a blaring voice over the radio at 1:08 a.m.
“Another call for that house on Carlisle,” James said. Accelerating, James turned onto Norris Street and hastily advanced toward Carlisle Street. Three squad cars were already lined up on the street. Their lights blazed, reflecting psychedelic swirls of color onto the row homes.
“The guys are bored. They all showed up. Now I’ve got to walk half a block to get to the house,” James said.
Under police supervision, one by one, approximately 40 students filed out of the front door. An unknown number fled through the rear of the building.
“The party’s now shut down,” James said. “So that should be the end of the problem for that house tonight.” But James hadn’t heard the last of the Carlisle Street partygoers yet. He received a radio message from an officer monitoring campus video feeds. Several students were apparently returning to the Carlisle Street shindig.
James drove back and interrogated a group of male students. “Now I know why the neighbor was complaining,” he said. “They actually had a live band in the basement.
Those people were the band coming back to get their equipment.”
At 2:08 a.m., the Carlisle Street affair culminated in a neighborhood scuffle.
“Possible fight on the highway, 2000 block of Carlisle,” said a voice over the radio.
All was quiet when James arrived. “We call it unfounded,” he said. Unable to sleep, junior education major and Carlisle Street resident Anne Marie Fanelli watched the spectacle unfold from her bedroom window.
“The cops actually made more noise than the party,” she said, adding that cops had never traversed Carlisle Street so many times in one night.
“They were standing outside laughing with their lights on. Their lights are what really woke me up.”
Fanelli described an incident involving a male student who stood yelling in the middle of the street, saying that he sparked a “screaming match” among residents that came close to becoming a physical fight.
“The one kid was really drunk. He was like, ‘Who called the cops? Haven’t you guys ever been in your 20s before? We weren’t doing
anything wrong. We were just trying to have a good time.'”
In 2005, Liquor-Law violations and arrests
included 24 that occurred on campus property, 11 on non-campus property and 23 in the residence halls.
Capt. Denise Wilhelm, who is in charge of the police patrol unit, said that alcohol-related incidents unnecessarily distract officers.
“We’re so busy with students and drinking,
… I may have half my shift out on medical runs, breaking up parties,” Wilhelm said.
“So they’re dealing with that when my officers really should be concentrating on serious crime issues in the area.”
Despite an increased influx of alcohol-related incidents in recent weeks, Capt. Robert Lowell, chief of investigations at Campus Safety Services, said that statistics are actually remaining constant.
“The actual number of alcohol incidents is right on pace with last year,” Lowell said, attributing the apparent spike to the back-to-school season. “We’re finding people lying on the highway, passed out blocks from campus and they don’t know where they are because they’re so inebriated,” said Charles Leone, deputy director of Campus Safety Services.
“We’re always all about protecting students, and people think that means protecting them from outside elements,” continued Leone.
“But, in cases like this, we sometimes have to protect them from themselves.”
Venuri Siriwardane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.