Along with its focus on prostitution and vehicular endangerment, the next target for the New Haven Police Department may be underage drinking.
Such a crackdown would be part of a larger focus on threats to downtown quality of life, city officials said. As a first step, undercover NHPD officers and members of the Connecticut Liquor Control Division detained eight minors — including seven Quinnipiac students — for underage alcohol possession Thursday night at Alchemy Nightclub on Crown St.
Uniformed and plainclothes NHPD officers issued citations to all eight underage drinkers for $136, while they allowed the rest of the club’s patrons to exit the building after verifying their ages. The raid at Alchemy Nightclub came almost two weeks after a knife-fight and deadly shooting occurred outside of two separate downtown clubs, and a week after community members met to discuss downtown crime issues at the Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team meeting.
City Hall Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the NHPD will likely continue its efforts to discourage drinking by minors in Ninth Square entertainment establishments as part of a new plan to focus attention on quality-of-life issues that affect businesses and residences downtown.
Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said these quality-of-life issues have been nuisances for her Ninth Square constituents for a long time. But underage drinking is only one of many problems, she said. Public urination, vomiting, parking infractions and noise disturbances have also plagued the downtown area since the development of the club and restaurant district, she said.
This problem is exacerbated by the college students who are bused into downtown New Haven from Quinnipiac University and the University of New Haven, she said. Clark cited one incident she heard from a female resident who told Clark that a group of college students accosted her after she confronted one of them and demanded that he refrain from urinating against a wall.
Nobody wants to stifle one of the city’s most vibrant economic sectors, Clark said, but she added that it is necessary to strike a balance between downtown development and public security.
“It’s going to kill the golden goose,” Clark said. “It’s going to harm our businesses if we have this kind of totally unruly behavior.”
Doug Hausladen ’04, a downtown resident, said he agrees that the issue of underage drinking is intimately connected with other quality-of-life problems occurring downtown, and he said he knows Yale students — not just students bused in from other schools — have also contributed to the problem. Hausladen is the public safety subcommittee chair for the DWS community management team, and he maintained that all of the area universities need to collaborate with downtown businesses and city officials in order to identify better methods of preventing their students from causing disturbances in New Haven clubs and bars.
In the past, Hausladen said, crackdowns on underage drinking in New Haven have come in waves, but Thursday night’s raid on Alchemy Nightclub “might be a bigger wave than in the past,” he said. He added that he has not spoken to police about this issue.
“You have to be pretty head-in-the-sand not to understand that if you bring underage people to the bar district, you’re going to get underage drinking in bars,” Hausladen said.
As a result of a similar raid, Toad’s Place on York St. was closed for 90 days during the summer of 2007 after NHPD officers discovered 87 underage patrons there during a Nov. 2005 raid.