Officials observe gameday crime trends based on weather, game times

Monday, December 5, 2016 - 2:59pm

Students tailgate before the game in Ann Arbor.

Students tailgate before the game in Ann Arbor. Buy this photo
Emma Kerr/Daily

 

Though crime statistics from the University of Michigan home football game days follow no clear trajectory, police and students have observed trends such as game time and weather that may have influenced arrests, hospitalizations and ejections.

Michigan’s Sept. 17 game against Colorado set the season’s peak for medical emergencies on a football Saturday at 83 treated students, and the Oct. 1 game against Wisconsin set the season peak for ejections from the stadium at 64 people ejected.   

According to Joe Piersante, director of University Security Services, who manages game day operations, the season went smoothly overall but for one significant incident.

“Aside from the arrests made of the pickpocketing ring at the October 1 game, we did not encounter any significant issues,” he wrote in an email to the Daily.

DPSS spokeswoman Diane Brown pointed to several general factors that she said play into dangerous activity on game days, such as changing weather throughout the season.

“Over the years we have observed that there are several factors that may contribute to behavior from fans — the weather, which could include hot, cold, rain, sleet, snow,” she said. “They tend to impact how much people might consume, how much alcohol and food and how much they might participate in other activities. If it’s raining, sleeting and snowing in the same game, a lot of people won’t stay or won’t even come.”

Business sophomore Maxwell Frenkel said he was surprised at the statistics from the final home game against Indiana given the snowy weather. Fifty-one people were treated by emergency medical responders.

“For Indiana, the number of individuals treated wasn’t high, but it wasn’t super low,” he said. “That was a freezing day and a lot of people I know didn’t go to the game. Most people didn’t want to sit in the stadium. A lot of people watched at home. So I’m surprised the numbers are still somewhat high.”

According to Brown, kickoff times also play a big role. She said games that start at 3:30 p.m. tend to have more enforcement action than games that begin at noon.

Engineering freshman Sam Harris said he thought there was a simple reason start time of games was significant in understanding why more students might be treated for a medical emergency. The football games on Sept. 3 and Sept. 10, which started at noon, found 74 and 55 individuals, respectively, treated by emergency medical responders, while at the following two games on Sept. 17 and Sept. 24, which started at 3:30 p.m., 83 and 76 people, respectively, were treated.

“It seems for 3:30 games, there are more people taken to the hospital, probably because there’s more time to drink and party,” he said.

This year specifically, the first five football games were all played at home, something Brown said is almost unprecedented.

“At the beginning of the semester, students and others might not be quite so busy with other activities as they are at other times of the year,” she said.

Noting that only 11 people were transported to the hospital during the first game against Hawaii, Frenkel said he thinks this makes sense given it was the first of the season.

“The most individuals were taken to the hospital at the Hawaii game probably because it’s the first game of the year so a lot of people are coming back,” he said. “They haven’t been drinking and partying over the summer, so they may go especially hard. It’s welcome weekend.”

Brown said the intensity of the rivalry between the schools can contribute to more drinking and partying as well.

“There were opponents that we didn’t play at home this year where we have been known to have to deal with more enforcement action,” she said.

Similarly, Frankel said the Big Ten rivalry between Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as the relatively small distance between the schools, could have contributed to the 64 people ejected from the stadium — more than in any other game.  

“There were an abnormally large amount of ejections at the Wisconsin game, probably because a lot of Wisconsin fans travel here,” he said. “It was one of the first big games of the season.”

Harris said he expected there would be more arrests during the Indiana game since it is also a Big Ten school, but as Brown noted, the snowy weather could have played a role. There were only two arrests during this game — the second lowest number of arrests all season and the lowest in a Big Ten game.

“There aren’t that many arrests for Indiana,” he said. “You’d expect because it’s a Big Ten that there would be a lot of people doing stupid stuff.”

In response to high alcohol consumption on game days, University groups have taken on several initiatives to increase student safety.

This year, Central Student Government hosted a sober tailgate before the Colorado game. CSG has also taken other initiatives to keep students safe during high-risk times, including Hydration stations outside Greek life housing on game days through a joint effort between CSG and the Interfraternity Council.

Public Policy senior Joe Shea, CSG communications director, said CSG tries to keep students safe in any way they can, though he noted the police are ultimately responsible for student safety in these instances.

“Our goal is to try to get students to be responsible on game days and we saw this as an opportunity to promote a fun event where students can come out, have some pizza, stay hydrated and have fun,” he said.