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Big Crackdown On Underage Drinking At The 'U'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In the largest crackdown on drinking the University of Minnesota campus will see this year, dozens of officers spent Saturday night keeping a close eye on how students spent their time.

Cops hope the extra effort now will lead to a safer year at the U.

Saturday started early for some students, getting ready to cheer on their Golden Gophers for a fourth season on campus, the first where alcohol was sold inside the stadium.

By the time midnight came, it appeared the drinks were still flowing -- at least, for those old enough to take part.

A typical Saturday night during the school year will bring five to ten officers to campus, but last weekend saw 12 from 8 agencies in Hennepin County.

Deputy Chief Charles Miner with the University of Minnesota Police Department says it's about setting an expectation as soon as possible.

"We set out at the beginning of the year to set the tone of the enforcement of these laws in these areas," Miner said.

The effort is part of an initiative called "Toward Zero Deaths." It focuses on what cops call "alcohol violations" -- underage drinking, DWIs, and public intoxication along with traffic violations.

Officers fan out on a few blocks around Dinkytown bars and frat row.

Police were given grant money to step up alcohol patrols when TCF Bank Stadium first opened. They found the arrest numbers are actually higher on weekends when the team plays out of town.

But police have noticed the extra presence drives down other crimes. Though four people were beaten and robbed in the last week, nothing like that happened last weekend.

"With the stepped up enforcement that kept the folks away who probably don't belong around the university," Miner said.

For those that do belong, cops want to send a message that there are still consequences for bad behavior.

"The college experience should still be a fun experience, but you need to do it responsibly," Miner said.

U of M police wrote 313 tickets for alcohol violations on campus last year. They also issued 40 DWIs. On Saturday night, U of M police issued five alcohol-related citations, three for underage drinking. They also issued two DWIs.

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