Police up patrols around nightclubs

Club-hopping crowds of students and city residents will not be alone when they hit New Haven’s nightlife scene this fall.

As students return to the Elm City for the new academic year, the New Haven Police Department will be “out en mass” to patrol the downtown nightclub district and enforce drinking regulations, department spokesman David Hartman said on Thursday.

In response to the higher number of student patrons in the city’s nightclubs, an increased presence of police officers will patrol the downtown area Thursday through Saturday, in an attempt to crack down on underage drinking and disorderly conduct, Hartman said.

“Our message is simple: welcome back, be safe and be quiet,” he said, promising zero tolerance for even minor infractions.

As classes resume after summer vacation, Hartman explained, downtown nightclubs traditionally witness a spike in patronage, with students from Yale as well as other local schools — Southern Connecticut State University, Albertus Magnus College and Quinnipiac University — flooding into New Haven’s nightlife hotspots.

“The first few weeks of school are historically the busiest for police,” Hartman said. “If during the summer we have an average of 4,000 people [hitting the nightlife scene] between Thursday and Saturday, the number can go up to 8,000 or 10,000 when classes are in session.”

Hartman did not provide specific numbers for how many police officers will patrol the nightclub area during the weekend, as locations and assignments will vary from week to week based on expected patron turnout. In order to determine high-risk areas, Hartman explained, the department’s Intelligence Division works daily to monitor social media in search of events and parties that are likely to attract large crowds of attendees.

In addition to patrolling the nightclub district, NHPD officers will also start conducting regular inspections in local bars and clubs to curtail underage drinking.

In past years, this task fell under the purview of liquor agents sent from the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. But starting this fall, the city’s police department will carry out inspections independently of the state’s Liquor Control Division, a change that will allow police officers to better enforce liquor laws.

“We no longer have to wait for the involvement of liquor agents to go ahead and start these inspections,” Hartman said.

The first NHPD liquor inspection took place last Thursday, when six students from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. were arrested for underage drinking at Exhibit X, a nightclub located at 29 Center St.

“The New Haven Police Department is planning more such inspections,” Hartman said, adding that the department will be expanding its duties “beyond the customary boundaries” to scrutinize patrons even at the smaller bars.

The police department’s decision to increase police presence in the nightclub district has been favorably received by local bar and club owners.

Bruce Bennett, manager at Oaxaca Kitchen, said more police officers in the area will not only help to mitigate underage drinking, but will also contribute to his own sense of safety.

For John Ginetti, owner and mixologist at 116 Crown, police presence in the area surrounding the cocktail club has been “consistently good” over the years.

“The more cops around, the better,” he said, applauding the NHPD’s efforts to keep students safe.

Individuals must be at least 21 years old to purchase or consume alcohol in the state of Connecticut.

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