Perception of Increased Hamilton Police Presence Examined

Within the first month of the fall semester, the Hamilton Police Department has record-ed an increase in the number of arrests compared to past years. The reason behind the uptick cannot be clearly determined, but many students suspect that it is a result of a crackdown on underage drinking.

Both Hamilton Police Chief Rick Gifford and Mayor Mar-garet Miller assure the Colgate community that no significant changes have been made with regard to law enforcement policies.

“We are enforcing laws that have been on the books for ages,” Chief Gifford said.

Nevertheless, he does not deny that the majority of arrests made within the past month have been a result of alcohol consumption.

“Out of all of the arrests that have been made here concern-ing students, I would say that 99 percent have involved intoxica-tion that ultimately resulted in an arrest.”

Gifford became Hamilton’s Police Chief two years ago this fall and has been making his mark ever since, with special fo-cus on the criminal possession of forged instruments. With over 33 years of experience in law enforcement, Chief Gifford came to Hamilton prepared to do whatever he had to in order to keep the community safe – Colgate students included.

“When I came here what I was seeing were serious safety issues concerning the health of students,” Chief Gifford said.

So far this semester, the rates of arrests involving disorderly conduct, underage drinking and possession of an open con-tainer have been rather consistent with last year’s data.

However, the number of arrests made for littering have doubled while those for noise violations have nearly quadrupled.

Chief Gifford has noticed a dramatic increase in the number of off-campus parties that have been occurring this year. Some believe this to be a result of more restrictive Colgate drinking poli-cies, particularly the introduction of the points-system last August, that have been forcing the drinking scene underground. But the Colgate administration doesn’t quite buy it.

According to Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Scott Brown, the number of incidents concerning Colgate students and off-campus conduct cases, al-cohol related conduct cases and the number of alcohol intoxication visits to the emer-gency room have all been reduced by over 30 percent since the points system has been in place.

“For the second year in a row, the total number of violations and repeat violations to the university’s alcohol policy declined over the prior year,” Dean Brown said. “We have seen a 40 percent reduction in total alcohol related violations, and even more importantly, a 73 percent reduction in repeat violations.”

Despite what appears to be a positive trend, the Colgate administration has not ceased their efforts to maintain a safe and enjoyable social scene around Hamilton.

“In general, we want our students to have the most vibrant, inclusive social life we can, but one that is not characterized by high-risk behavior,” Dean Brown said. “Basically, how can we find a way to support a great social en-vironment for all students but also keep your health and safety at the fore?”

Having just joined the Colgate adminis-tration this past summer, Vice President and Dean of the College Suzy Nelson has looked to work with students to create more social alternatives on campus.

“We continue to work with students to create other venues for recreating and socializing on campus,” Dean Nelson said. “Donovan’s Pub is just one example of this. I would like to build on our ef-forts here, with the involvement of more students and organizations.”

One of the foremost concerns of both the administration and the town officials is keeping students safe while providing the greater Hamilton community with a pleas-ant place to live. The Colgate administra-tion has been looking to ensure the safety of the community.

“Given that Colgate is located in a resi-dential community, the village and the university must assure that we respect our neighbors,” Dean Nelson said. “It is unfair to expect village residents to tolerate excessive noise, damage to their property and other disorderly conduct. The police are respond-ing to requests to maintain the quality of life in Hamilton. Colgate’s policies must comply with the law.”

Chief Gifford agreed.

“Sometimes I think that Colgate has such history that people come here with the per-ception that Colgate is one of the top-ten party schools in the nation,” Gifford said.

Colgate’s Student Government Associa-tion (SGA) has responded to the increased number of complaints of disruptive behav-ior coming from the Hamilton community. SGA President Matt Ford has met with a number of disgruntled community members to hear their side of the story.

“The victims of student actions ex-pressed to me that they do not blame the student body as a whole, but rather are aware that a small percentage of stu-dents are causing the problems,” Ford said. “A solution that provides a measure of justice is required. Based on these, we’re looking to expand existing ‘Gate-town connection programs and create new ways to further our relationship with the town.”

SGA Senior Life Policy Coordinator Colin Cowles has been working to try and help find a balance for students who live off-campus so that they can have fun while also being positive members of the com-munity. Cowles, along with senior Mike Zahka and the External Affairs Committee of the SGA, are working to create a hand-book to distribute to students that informs them of how their actions might be dealt with by the Hamilton Police Department and New York legal system as compared to how the Colgate administration might handle it.

“If we can lower the amount of students who get in trouble by informing them of the laws and consequences, I feel as if that will be an important first step into strengthening the important bond that Colgate University has with the town of Hamilton,” Cowles said.

Prevention is a goal that Chief Gifford works towards as well. If you have walked downtown at night and seen a police officer on foot, then you have witnessed Gifford’s plan in action.

“The thought is to get out on the street, to get out and meet people,” Chief Gifford said. “We’re out there, we’re visible and we hope the presence of these police officers will prevent students from making bad decision.”

The Hamilton Police Department has recently added several new officers, so that there are now five full-time and eight part-time officers. However, Mayor Miller notes that these additions have not impacted coverage but were simply a cost-saving measure so that officers didn’t have to be paid for more expensive overtime costs.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” Chief Gif-ford said. “We feel as if we intervene then maybe that will keep a student from going to the hospital or committing a crime.”

Contact Cody Semrau at [email protected] and Keith Cohen at [email protected]