Police presence increased for U of M's weekend Spring Jamby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Police will be out in full-force around the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota starting Friday night as this weekend marks Spring Jam, an on-campus celebration at the university that many students see as a chance throw huge off-campus parties.
Last year some of those celebrations got out of hand after party goers started bonfires in the street and clashed with police.
This time around police will be closely watching the situation, and plan to step in early before things get out of control.
On a sunny weekday afternoon, Sarah Santiago slips brochures in the front doors of homes near the University of Minnesota campus.
The 22-year old senior is a student neighborhood liaison. Her job is to foster a friendly relationship between students and full-time residents of campus-area neighborhoods.
She's here to remind residents that Spring Jam is coming up this weekend.
The annual celebration itself is a pretty tame and controlled affair. Concerts and other events on campus are all alcohol-free, but students tend to see Spring Jam weekend as a good time to hold alcohol-fueled parties off campus.
The brochure Santiago is passing out tells residents who they should call if there's a raucous get together on their block. It also offers advice to students who might be hosting some of those parties. "It has some information about responsible partying, and ways to avoid getting in trouble and some of the stuff that happened last year," she said.
If you're interested in seeing what happened last year during Spring Jam, it's splashed all over YouTube.
On a warm Saturday night in late April 2009, hundreds of young people spilled into the streets in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood near campus. They started fires and tried to flip over a few cars.
About 50 officers from the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis police departments moved in and were met with resistance.
Police in full riot gear fired tear gas to break up the crowd.
Twelve people were arrested during the mayhem, five of them were University of Minnesota students.
University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness wants to prevent that from happening this year.
Hestness said at least four of his officers, and a dozen or more from the Minneapolis Police Department, will be patrolling neighborhoods near campus earlier than they were last year.
"Getting out and interacting where they are seeing socializing building beyond manageable levels earlier," he said.
Hestness said if necessary, more than 100 police officers could be called out this weekend to deal with any problems, about twice as many as last year. The Minnesota State Patrol has offered up a helicopter as well, to illuminate any trouble spots.
Jerry Rinehart, who is in charge of student affairs at the university, said last year's ruckus reflected poorly on the university as a whole. The school considered canceling this year's Spring Jam, but decided not having the on campus events could result in more off-campus parties.
Rinehart reminds students that since last year's celebration, Minneapolis has put a new social-host ordinance in place. That means party hosts can be charged with a misdemeanor if any of their guests are underage.
Rinehart wants them to know that the university's code of conduct also allows the school to punish students who get in trouble, even if it's off campus.
"It could be as mild as a warning letter. It can be a probation for a period of time. It could be a suspension for a semester, or a year, or several years," Rinehart said. "The most serious consequence could be expulsion, which means they could never go to the University of Minnesota or any of its campuses again."
Rinehart is confident that the beefed-up security will quell any problems this weekend.
The weather may help as well. The forecast for Saturday, when much of the partying usually happens, calls for rain and cooler temperatures. Rinehart says that might be just enough to keep the parties indoors and off the streets.
- Morning Edition, 04/23/2010, 7:20 a.m.