On Halloween night, a Trumbull sophomore went to Zachary’s Package Store on Howe Street and used a fake ID to purchase alcohol. Outside the store, a cop stopped him, checked his Yale ID, charged him with underage possession and forced him to pour out his alcohol.
“I was mad because there was a lot of it,” said the student, who asked not to be named because he was breaking the law.
The number of students hospitalized for drugs and alcohol is on track to double this semester, Council of Masters Chair Jonathan Holloway said in an e-mail to Calhoun students. And Yale Police officers have cracked down, issuing citations to three minors near Broadway Liquor on Friday alone, according to the department’s crime log. Before Halloween weekend, when four minors were cited for consuming liquor, Yale Police only issued two underage drinking citations this semester, both in September. Twenty-four students interviewed over the weekend said they have noticed alcohol enforcement has suddenly become stricter, with police conducting searches outside liquor stores.
Yale Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who is in charge of campus security, confirmed that the YPD has met with local businesses and that police step up enforcement in years when the Harvard-Yale football game is in New Haven.
“The Yale Police have often visited local establishments to remind them that the majority of Yale undergraduates are under the age of 21 and so cannot legally purchase alcohol,” Highsmith said in an e-mail.
Dean of Yale College Mary Miller said Sunday night she had not heard of the recent uptick in police activity, and residential college masters also said they are not connected to the policy. Holloway said that, though the council will be discussing the state of alcohol and drug use on campus in a meeting this coming Friday, the masters have not influenced recent YPD actions.
Silliman Master Judith Krauss added that the council traditionally does not intervene in police matters.
Of 46 students interviewed, 24 said they had experienced or heard of police searches for alcohol and identification. Students recounted stories of officers approaching them because they were near a liquor store or were carrying large bags.
Christine Chan ’10, who is over 21, said a police car “swerved” in front of her and her companions as they left Broadway Liquor last Saturday. She said the officer examined the students’ IDs for more than two minutes. Brendan Ross ’13 said officers gave some of his underage friends citations and $100 fines, confiscating their liquor after they had left the same business.
Three students interviewed said this police activity was out of the ordinary around Yale’s campus, and many expressed anger at the increased number and aggressiveness of the searches.
But not all students agreed. Chan said she had appreciated the police who questioned her for “doing their job.”
While police tactics may prompt strong reactions from students, New Haven-based defense lawyer William Dow III ’63 said they are perfectly legal.
“If the police has reasonable suspicion of illegal activities, they have the right to stop and inquire,” he said.
Some underage students who were caught carrying alcohol said police officers only made them place the alcohol on the ground until they could contact an of-age friend to come and carry it the rest of the way.
Though searches have become more frequent, some students said consequences for possessing alcohol were not a significant obstacle to drinking.
“It’s a drinking problem, not really a fake ID problem. If you want alcohol, you can get it,” Jackie Parilla ’12 said. “Access to alcohol doesn’t really depend on whether or not you have a fake.”
A 2006 Connecticut statute made it illegal for a person of legal drinking age to allow underage drinking.
Jordi Gasso, Carol Hsin and Baobao Zhang contributed reporting.