Saturday, Oct. 18 was homecoming at WCU, and it was a day of festivities, including the football game in which the beloved Rams toppled Shippensburg 55-28. The homecoming king and queen, Ryan Schaefer and Jenny Bowers, were crowned, and different clubs and organizations, including West Chester’s Greek Life, participated in a dance competition outside of Sykes Student Union.
Also included in the day’s festivities were numerous non-university sponsored barbecues, tailgates, and parties. Earlier in the week at the Student Government Association (SGA) Council of the Organizations, a Public Safety officer gave a quick statement to the students present regarding increased police presence over the course of homecoming weekend. Similarly, the Thursday before homecoming weekend, an email from Chief of Police Scott Bohn was sent out, warning students of extra officers on duty, and that, “they will be aggressively enforcing all alcohol-related laws and ordinances on campus and in the Borough.” The email also included recommended fines for citations, as well as a forewarning that the University will be notified of all arrests and that those arrested will also face University-sanctioned disciplinary action.
On Saturday morning, it was evident that the West Chester police department meant business. Lieutenant O’Donnell of the West Chester Police Department said that the police department knew they would be required to “ramp up man-power.” During the day, there were 26 total police officers on duty, patrolling on foot, by bicycle, and by vehicle. The West Chester police department also teamed up with the Chester County Sheriff’s Office and Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE) to share facilities as well as officers.
When asked about any special accommodations or strategies for Saturday, Lt. O’Donnell maintained that the 26 officers were not instructed to do anything out of the ordinary, just to watch. When asked specifically about any undercover operations or ununiformed officers, O’Donnell simply stated, “I can’t really say whether we did or not, but I can say that we used anything and everything legally at our disposal.”
In the week leading up to homecoming, from Oct. 13 to Oct. 19, there were 32 people between the ages of 18-25 charged with open container violations, 20 people charged for underage drinking, 13 charged with public drunkenness, eight for noise violations, six for public indecency, five people charged with disorderly conduct, three for littering, two for driving under the influence (DUI), one person charged for harassment, and one person charged for assault. The arrest rate on homecoming itself, however, turned out to be an improvement over last year.
Homecoming 2013 at West Chester University resulted in more than 100 people arrested and charged with miscellaneous offences, including underage drinking, public indecency, public drunkenness, and open container violations. However, 2014 was a bit different; only 79 people between the ages of 18 and 25, about a 20 percent decrease from the previous year, were arrested and charged with party related offences. Homecoming 2014 resulted in only eight people between the ages of 18 and 25 charged with noise violations, whereas when the students returned to school at the beginning of the semester, 19 people were charged for noise violations.
The reason for the drop in number of those charged is hard to pinpoint. Lt. O’Donnell made it clear that there is no way to quantify why these numbers go up and down. He hypothesized that there was a lot of officer discretion used over the course of homecoming or that perhaps that law enforcement is learning how to be more efficient during these large-scale community events.
There was also a report of a car accident on South Campus of West Chester near the East Village and the Village apartments. A victim, whose car was hit by the suspected driver, said that the investigation is ongoing and that no details have been released as of yet. When questioned about the accident, which is suspected to be a DUI case in which multiple cars were damaged and even a possible streetlight, Public Safety failed to respond.
Lt. O’Donnell made a point to encourage all students to continue to be smart and conscientious, and to manage themselves while out in public during events like this. Students can rest assured that the West Chester police department and Public Safety will continue to strive to make the borough and campus of West Chester safe for everyone.
Nick Cardillo is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at NC802447@wcupa.edu.