DURHAM — New information released by the University of New Hampshire Police Department shows a number of students were sent to the county jail due to the level of their intoxication this academic year.
UNH Police Chief Paul Dean said it was to keep them safe.
“Dover closed the only detox center in the area decades ago,” Dean said. “This is all about safety to do this.”
Demographics show that in the 2018-19 academic year, UNH police arrested 491 people; 375 of them were UNH students.
Of the total population arrested, 107 were sent to the Strafford County House of Corrections in Dover due to the level of their intoxication. Of those taken to the facility, 85 percent were students from UNH.
Dean said the students were endangering themselves or others. For example, one student was in the middle of the street trying to direct traffic on a Friday night.
Dean explained that when a student is intoxicated, police cannot just release them to a friend because it is possible they could drink more and be harmed.
He said there is case law that supports the practice, including Weldy v. Kingston.
On Sept. 11, 1982, five teenagers pooled their money to get a 19-year-old to buy a case of beer for them. He purchased the alcohol at a store in Raymond and was not asked to show any identification. The teenagers drank beer in the car for a short while before their vehicle was stopped for speeding by two Kingston police officers.
An officer removed a beer from the driver’s hand and emptied it. After all the beer was confiscated, police allowed the teens to go on their way, telling the driver a report about the illegal transportation of alcoholic beverages would be sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The teens drove to Massachusetts, where a second case of beer was purchased in Haverhill. They went to a drive-in movie and drank all or most of the second case of beer before they drove back to Kingston.
As they made their way home, the teens noticed a car approaching them from behind and became fearful it was a police cruiser. The driver sped off, failed to make a curve, hit a cement marker and car overturned.
Sixteen-year-old Nancy Weldy died.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court eventually upheld a Superior Court decision holding the town of Kingston legally responsible for the crash because the police officers failed to uphold their statutory duty of care.
Dean said his officers are well-trained to determine which students should be released after processing and which ones need to be put under supervision for the night. He points out that students sent to the county jail are not placed in the regular population and have access to medical care should they need it.
Dean said to release all students would be an unfair burden to the resident assistants at the dorms. Stoke Hall, the largest residence hall at UNH, has hundreds of students, he pointed out.
“Why would you ask a student to take the responsibility of making sure another student stays in their room and doesn’t get hurt?” Dean asked.
Dean said the school has not had an alcohol-related fatality in many years as a result of these police practices, but 36 people they arrested were sent to the hospital for extreme intoxication during the 2018-19 academic year; 88.8 percent of those people were UNH students.
Dean added that most of the crime on campus stems from alcohol consumption. There were 14 simple assault arrests, 20 disorderly conduct arrests and 21 criminal mischief arrests this academic year.
The UNH and Durham police departments and other state agencies arrested a total of 896 people between Aug. 24, 2018, and May 20, 2019. Of these, 608 were UNH students, according to a memorandum prepared by Durham Police Chief David Kurz.
UNH spokesman Erika Mantz said orientation for first-year students is going on this month. Dean will speak to every group of parents who attend about the police department’s practices.
“Every parent gets my personal cell phone number and we talk about these things,” Dean said.
This past spring, UNH had 14,925 students taking classes at the Durham campus, according to its enrollment census.