Bertha Pham ’04 was a walking advertisement yesterday.
With a “The Rotunda Returns” poster plastered to the back of her yellow sweatshirt, masking tape hanging around her wrist and dozens of flyers just waiting to be hung, Pham trekked around Old Campus on Thursday afternoon, advertising the Saturday sequel to a successful, although shortened, pre-spring break party.
Pham said the party, hosted by eight freshman in Bingham, was broken up by cops at 1 a.m.
“We would have preferred for the party to go on, but I mean, one o’clock is one o’clock,” she said. “That’s the rule.”
Actually, it’s not.
Pham isn’t the only Yalie confused about laws concerning parties and alcohol.
Police officers can break up parties for any illegal activity, including violating the city noise ordinance and underage drinking, but not for continuing past a specific hour, Yale University Chief of Police James Perrotti said.
Perrotti said when a police officer encounters a rowdy party, he has a “wide variety of options.”
She or he can ask everyone to quiet down, make party-goers go home or seize the alcohol.
The officer can also notify the master or dean of a college, or identify all students and submit a report to Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg and the Executive Committee.
Police almost always check out parties because of noise complaints from neighbors. This is why fraternity parties get broken up more regularly than residential college parties, Perrotti said.
Perrotti stressed that when police officers show up at a party, it’s much better for the host to admit it’s his or her party than to lie and make the police officer angry. The police are just trying to figure out what’s going on and who’s responsible.
“Cops don’t come [to parties] with the intention of getting someone,” Perrotti said.
Even when parties are broken up, arrests are rarely made.
“We prefer not to take enforcement action when other avenues are available,” Perrotti said.
However, underage drinking is a misdemeanor for which students can be arrested and fined $200 to $500.
Perrotti said party hosts who provide alcohol to minors also break the law, unless they make a real effort to ensure minors are not drinking — for instance by checking IDs.
To the surprise of Vibhuti Jain ’04, signs commonly seen at parties that state “Connecticut law prohibits the consumption of alcohol by minors” are worthless.
She hung such signs at her party several weeks ago thinking “they will cover us if the cops come.” The cops did come, but they didn’t enter the area containing the alcohol, Jain said.
If they had, these signs would not have protected Jain. They have no legal effect unless someone is also checking IDs, Perrotti said.
Pham said because of the huge crowds last time and the current nice weather, “The Rotunda Returns” will be partially outside.
Pham plans to hang signs asking people to keep drinks indoors, but if they don’t, they may face fines for violating the city’s open container ordinance.
Yalies who travel off-campus for their entertainment — especially ones who are not 21 — face even greater risks.
Misrepresenting your age by a fake or altered ID can result in confiscation of the ID and a $200 to $500 fine.
Pretending to be someone else, whether the ID is real or fake, is criminal impersonation, an even more serious misdemeanor offense. By law, offenders can be arrested and even imprisoned.
Perrotti said club owners have been asked by the Yale Police to notify them when they encounter fake IDs.
Nightclub Toad’s Place has been very good about working with the department, Perrotti said.
But if you still want to risk it, rest assured that Toad’s doesn’t call the cops every time they come across a fake ID, said an employee who would not identify himself on the phone.
However, bouncers at Toad’s can confiscate IDs, even real ones. They call the real owner to pick it up, the employee said.
But Toad’s doesn’t keep official records of confiscations because with bouncers rotating in and out, only a subjective tally is possible.
“We try to be as kind as we can to our customers,” he said.
And police officers try to be as kind as they can to Yale students. Arresting people is really not the department’s objective in most situations, Perrotti said.