Public Safety police officers do not knock on resident’s doors for noise violation alone. Officers determine which apartment the noise is traveling from. On a typical night, many of the surrounding apartments are quiet, making this determination easier for the officer. Sgt. Matthew Paris walked along the street on South Campus, and stopped after hearing noise come from a nearby apartment complex. When seeking the noisy apartment, officers tend to look into windows of the apartments on South campus to see the activities going on inside.
Standing near the front door, Paris listened to the voices inside for any indication that they had alcohol. After hearing people talk about taking a shot, Paris knocked on the door. Instantly the loud voices grew quieter.
After Paris identified himself, the inside of the apartment remained completely silent.
Minutes later, Paris listened to the shuffling inside. Cabinet doors were opened and closed several times. Paris said it was likely during this time they were hiding the alcohol.
He continued to knock on the door, as the people inside refused to open up. He told them he would call for the RD to open the door if they would not. Paris had called for additional help, in which two security guards responded.
Paris kept an eye on the front windows as well as the front door. He said in the past, people have tried to run from the police by going out the windows.
Once again, Paris knocked on the door. This time he told them he knocked at the same apartment the week before. That night the residents were playing beer pong.
Expecting to wait outside until the RD arrived, the officer and security guards kept watch on the door.
Moving back to cover the windows, Paris took one more look inside where the blinds were not drawn down all the way. Getting the attention of someone inside, Paris told them to open the door, pointing in the direction of the door.
The RD arrived minutes after the residents opened the door. In most cases, students will open the door to the police before the RD has to key in. On-campus housing allows for the RDs to open the door for Public Safety officers.
When the resident opened the door, Paris asked for permission to enter. Once inside Paris asked them to get out the alcohol they had. He told them he could hear them talking about taking shots. One resident gave Paris an empty bottle of wine they claimed they used for cooking. This empty bottle gave him probable cause that there was once alcohol in the apartment.
Paris asked for everyone’s identification before searching the other rooms in the apartment for people hiding. He looked in the trashcan, which had empty beer cans. He asked the resident to open the refrigerator, in which beer was confiscated.
Paris asked the group of people who was over 21 years of age. He asked how old their roommates are, [the ones that were not home]. These residents will get a notice that a party with alcohol occurred in their apartment. They will not get in any trouble since they were not home at the time.
The residents who were home now claimed they were not home the week before when Paris came.
Before writing down the names of those in the apartment, Paris offered anyone who wanted to prove they were not consuming alcohol to take an “alco-screen” test; but then the five people in the apartment admitted to drinking.
When Paris handed back their IDs, he had them call their parents to notify them that they were being cited for underage. The citation is going to be sent to their home address.
Noticing that he had not confiscated the liquor bottle he saw through the window, he asked the residents where it was. With no answer, he began to search the kitchen. Since he heard cabinet doors open, he checked the kitchen looking for the bottle. There was no alcohol there. One resident retrieved three open bottles of alcohol that Paris dumped down the sink.
Paris told the group that when they received their citation in the mail, they should plead not guilty. Since it was their first offense, Paris told them typically they would get community service and not lose their driver’s licenses.
Paris explained to them what would happen if they plead guilty. If they plead guilty to the underage charge, they can have their record erased at 21 and have their driver’s license suspended. If they plead guilty to disorderly conduct, they could have their criminal record erased in five years.
Paris said the police work with the students and he realizes they want to have fun in college. He advised the students of the free lawyer provided on campus, where they could seek free legal advice. He told everyone about the ARD program they can apply for to erase their criminal record. Paris said non-WCU students get the same deal.
Many of the students thanked the officer for explaining the process to them and answering their questions.
Students who are 21 years of age and older will receive a judicial for possession of alcohol on campus. Students under the age of 21 will also receive a judicial as well as a citation for underage drinking. The residents hosting the party will be charged with providing alcohol to minors, regardless of their age.
The police have record of the non WCU students that are over 21 years of age. If they are constantly found consuming alcohol on campus, it is possible for them to be banned from campus grounds.
“It’s the 30 packs, beer pong, [drinking] games, and the screaming that gets people caught,” Sergeant Paris said. He told the groups of people to learn from this experience.
After this, Paris and the two security guards knocked at another apartment in which they confiscated nearly two cases full of beer and dumped four liquor bottles. In the living room, there was a table set up for playing beer pong. Paris had several people dump the open containers. Many of the parties had a beer pong game.
Once the door opens, Paris said if alcohol is seen in plain sight, it becomes a crime scene in which he can search.
With 14 people inside the apartment, one security guard said that residents should be assertive and in control of the noise level of their friends. While the police identified who was in the apartment, many of the males made jokes to lighten the serious mood in the room.
Leaving South campus for North, Paris watched the foot traffic of students returning home for the night. Around 1 a.m., once he was on foot too, he watched people walk by him.
Seeing a group of four people standing around a fifth person who was vomiting, Paris approached them. Leaning over, vomiting on the ground, one friend held onto his shirt, helping him keep his balance. Coming up from behind them, Paris got the groups attention. He told the four friends to go home as he tended to the other.
Public Safety officers are concerned for the health of WCU students and guests. Paris said when people are highly intoxicated it’s possible for them to asphyxiate on vomit.
“We can’t let that happen,” Sergeant Paris said. “Not on my campus.”
Claiming to not have been drinking that night, he tried to explain that he was stumbling due to a fight he was in earlier. He had a bloody nose with blood on his shirt. Paris was lightly holding onto part of his shirt, from his backside, to help him stand.
Despite Paris noting the smell of alcohol on his breath, he again claimed to not be intoxicated. Paris asked him to walk in a straight line with his toes touching. Paris demonstrated the sobriety test.
First wobbling more when Paris let go of his shirt, he nearly lost his balance. Then trying to walk in a straight line, he put one foot out and stumbled on the second step. He did not continue to walk.
Paris handcuffed him, as he pleaded with the officer to not arrest him.
While identifying the person under arrest for underage drinking and public intoxication, Paris asked if he goes to “his school.” He told Paris they were just visiting friends.
After bringing him to the police station, Paris called his parents to notify them that their son was being held. With no answer, he left a message, informing them they could pick him up from the police station.
Non-WCU students have to be picked up by their parents in order to be released from the police station.
He received medical attention for his body nose. When the paramedics asked how he got a bloody nose, he responded that he did not know. He asked the paramedics if he had gotten into a fight. He signed a liability form, refusing further medical treatment.
The non-WCU student was held for the night and released in the morning to his parents.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fourth year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.