By Hannah Troyer
State excise police have been cracking down on underage drinking around college campuses across the state – and the strategy is working, if arrests are a measure.
The excise police – which enforce the state’s alcohol and tobacco laws – have logged 801 arrests or tickets related to college patrols since Aug. 1.
In addition, the excise police have issued 170 administrative citations to alcohol-related businesses and have issued 79 warning tickets to individuals during the same period.
“One of the most effective programs undertaken by excise officers is the Cops-in-Shops initiative, which focuses on preventing underage access to alcohol by catching minors attempting to buy alcohol with false IDs, as well as adults purchasing alcohol for minors,” said Cpl. Travis Thickstun, the excise police agency’s public information officer.
The arrests are part of an effort to promote safety on college campuses. In August, as most college students were returning to school, the excise police issued a notice warning students that arrests for underage drinking and other violations could put their scholarships and activities in jeopardy.
“Dangerous drinking behaviors like underage drinking and binge drinking can sometimes have disastrous results,” the police said. “Excise officers are committed to reducing tragedies associated with underage drinking and excessive alcohol consumption.”
The agency also encouraged college students to use the state’s Lifeline Law, which provides immunity to underage drinkers who call 911 to help a friend who needs help.
But that doesn’t mean police aren’t on patrol as well. One weekend in August, the excise police arrested 71 people during Friday and Saturday patrols at Ball State University in Muncie.
Charges included illegal possession of alcohol, false statements of age, possession of false ID’s, and resisting law enforcement.
A couple weeks later, excise police arrested 22 people and cited a bar in Terre Haute where Indiana State University is located.
Thickstun says the strategy the officers use to catch those breaking tobacco and alcohol laws has remained consistent over the years.
“Excise officers work in uniform and plain clothes, depending on the officers’ duties that shift,” Thickstun said. “It’s common for one plain clothes officer to work inside of a licensed establishment – like a liquor store, drug store or grocery store – in plain clothes in order to observe undetected, while a uniformed police officer is sitting in a vehicle outside that same store.”
Thickstun also said that officers patrol sports tailgating events, concerts and, festivals. When patrolling, officers look for the same suspicious activities that could be crime-related. But, they also focus much more on licensed establishments like bars and taverns where underage drinking may occur.
The excise police on patrol in every college town in Indiana have issued 2,838 summonses so far this year, he said.
“Excise officers work closely with other law enforcement agencies on college campuses, sheriff’s departments, city and town police, conservation officers, state troopers, as well as federal law enforcement agencies,” Thickstun said. “While all law enforcement officers share the common goal of promoting safe communities around the state, excise officers focus most of their attention on enforcing the state’s alcohol, tobacco and Type II gaming laws.”
Hannah Troyer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.