The number of students facing punishment for drinking and using drugs on campus is on the rise, according to figures released by campus police earlier this week. More than twice as many people were arrested or referred for campus disciplinary action on drug and alcohol charges last year than in 2004.

Angela Cesere
More Vice? or More vigilance? The overall number of alcohol and drug violations reported by the Department of Public Safety have increased steadily over the last few years. (Source: Department of Public Safety)

The Department of Public Safety’s annual Campus Safety Handbook reported 1,546 alcohol violations last year, up from 841 in 2005 and 704 in 2004. Reported drug violations also increased from 71 in 2004 to 109 in 2005 to 158 last year.

Most of that increase doesn’t appear to have come from police cracking down. While the number of students facing MIP and drug charges has remained relatively constant, the University’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution was much busier last year than it had been in previous years.

The number of students referred to OSCR for disciplinary action in incidents related to alcohol has skyrocketed from 157 in 2004 to 352 in 2005 to 930 last year. The number of drug-related incidents referred to OSCR has increased from zero in 2004 to 24 in 2005 to 92 last year.

In those cases, residence hall staff refers the student to a staff committee rather than to police. The committee reviews the incident and decides whether to dismiss the case or send it to official arbitration. The student can often settle the charges through community service – for example, by making posters or organizing a hall activity.

DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said she was intrigued by the trend but didn’t know what has caused the increase in the number of cases reported to OSCR.

“I don’t know if it’s because there’s been a change in leadership at the Office of Student Conflict Resolution or if they are now tracking their data differently,” Brown said. “Maybe it hadn’t been done that accurately in the past.”

Brown said she didn’t see any other significant trends in this year’s data.

“I think it’s all rather flat, myself,” Brown said. “I look at these numbers and I say, ‘OK, there’s a difference of one. There’s a difference of two.’ That’s pretty small to me.”

But Brown said the number of larcenies on campus indicates that University students and employees have been more watchful of their possessions. Last year, 857 larcenies were reported, a small decrease from the previous two years.

“Most of these larcenies are thefts of opportunity, meaning our community has provided an opportunity for someone to come rip us off,” Brown said. “We could do a better job of securing our property and reducing these crimes of opportunity.”

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