The University of Chicago is called the school where fun goes to die, but Georgetown may soon knock those Midwesterners off of their pedestal. On top of the University’s harsh new on-campus party policy, Metropolitan Police Department officers have started arresting students for offenses that used to only merit citations, including open container violations. The Metro arrests are not only overreactions, but a waste of police resources.
Five students were arrested last weekend for open container violations, according to 2nd District Commander Andrew Solberg. Georgetown is a part of the 2nd District.
Under D.C. law, open container violations are civil, not criminal, offenses. In past years, students would receive citations for these and other minor party-related offenses. Still, Solberg defended the arrests, saying, “It’s against the law, it’s an arrestable offense.”
While open containers are in fact illegal, it’s unlikely that they are the most dangerous “arrestable offense” in the 2nd District. With the district’s expansion to include historically more dangerous parts of Dupont Circle and U Street, now is not the time for MPD to allocate officers to arresting people for open container violations.
Solberg explained that citations have lost their deterrence potential because many students factor the cost of the ticket into their party budget, but he predicts that the threat of an arrest will change that attitude.
Just as police don’t arrest drivers for speeding, another civil offense, because they are prepared to pay the ticket, the police department should not arrest students because they’re used to paying the fines for citations.
MPD’s harsh new policies seem inspired as much by a desire to intimidate students as by an actual increase in off-campus partying. In an e-mail that Solberg sent to Georgetown’s Vice President of Off-Campus Student Life Chuck Vansant, Solberg wrote, “I am not going to go through this again this year, with GU students disrupting the peace of the community in which they live.”
The police should be striving to protect Georgetown’s students and neighbors. While students should make an effort to be conscientious and avoid disrupting the lives of their neighbors as much as possible, maintaining town-gown relations by sticking students in jail shouldn’t be the Metropolitan Police Department’s priority.
The 2nd District’s commander has decided to make examples of some Georgetown students in the hope of intimidating the rest. MPD should direct its assets where they are needed, not where officers can make an easy arrest by preying on students having a (mostly) harmless good time.