by LENNY KOUPAL, CSU Communications Coordinator
In your first week of college life, you probably imagine settling in, finding your way around campus, socializing and making friends.
You may not be thinking about a $200 fine, spending a night in the “drunk tank” or a weekend in detox – or worse yet – getting a DWI or ending up in the hospital.
But it happens. Officer Stephanie Wilkins with the Mankato Department of Public Safety sees it all as Mankato DPS takes a “zero tolerance” approach to alcohol-related violations during the opening weeks of college.
‘We want to set the tone that this is not the party town.’
– Officer Stephanie Wilkins, Mankato Department of Public Safety
“If we can cite you for something, we will cite you,” said Wilkins, who serves as the campus liaison officer frequently seen on the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus. “We want to set the tone that this is not the party town.”
Starting the week before classes begin, Mankato DPS posts overtime shifts among its officers. Two to four officers are assigned to handle calls around campus and the surrounding apartment complexes and neighborhoods.
“That is their sole duty,” Wilkins said as college classes resume around Mankato. She added that police respond to calls throughout Mankato, among the calls are loud party complaints.
“One of the frequent calls in those first few weeks of school is the loud party,” Wilkins said.
Generally, two to three officers respond to a loud party. The officers request to speak with the tenants of the residence. They see if alcohol is present and if people at the residence appear under the age of 21.
If they suspect underage drinking, they begin processing the party. All individuals over 21 are identified and are allowed to leave. Those under age are submitted to a preliminary breath test. If they’ve been drinking, they are cited.
Wilkins said the fine starts around $187. Individuals may also be detained or sent to the hospital if they are found to have excessive alcohol levels. After everyone else has been processed, the police will visit with tenants of the residence. Those individuals can be cited for a social host violation; for providing a place for underage alcohol consumption.
Among the heavy list of citations are such violations as underage possession, underage consumption and open container. Sometimes those arrests are made as individuals try to transport alcohol to and from a party.
While the police don’t make random stops, officers will approach an individual if a situation looks suspicious. A late-night weekend walk with an oversized backpack can attract attention. So can a soda bottle often used for concealing alcohol or a mixed drink.
“We have seen a number of open containers walking around campus,” Wilkins said. “And if you have a big backpack we know you’re not studying at 2 in the morning.”
Wilkins said heavily intoxicated individuals will be detained until they can be released to a sober adult. If no one is available, the individual may go to detox. When warranted, individuals will be transported to the hospital.
Drunk individuals detained by police are first taken to the “drunk tank,” – a small room with a plastic chair and a waste basket. An individual may later be transported to the regional detox facility in New Ulm. That generally means a day or weekend stay in the facility along with an additional daily charge of around $300.
Wilkins said the police also handle higher than normal cases for driving while intoxicated or cases involving drugs. Often that involves marijuana. Getting caught with pot is a petty misdemeanor. Smoking in a vehicle raises the charge to a misdemeanor. Drug paraphernalia that appears to have been used results in another charge, whether or not any drugs have been discovered.
Wilkins said another type of violation is the use of fake IDs. Overseas online sites now offer fake IDs for $200-$300. Bouncers and other bar employees are skillful at detecting false identification.
“If they have any questions, they call an officer,” Wilkins added. Police can access various records to check on the accurate age of an individual. Getting caught with a fake ID is a gross misdemeanor.
Wilkins advice to anyone stopped by police is to cooperate. If a resident refuses to answer the door at a suspected party, Wilkins said the officers can get a search warrant. With today’s technology, an online warrant electronically signed by a judge can be processed in a short amount of time. With a signed warrant, police can legally enter a residence.
“Our goal is for everyone to have fun, but be safe and be smart,” Wilkins said. “Be cooperative. Cooperate and be polite and honest.”