Alcohol-related riots among university students pose a significant problem for police agencies that serve college communities.† The intensity of the disturbances may vary. However, the possible outcomes include property destruction and physical violence—a serious threat to community and officer safety.
Since student party riots are relatively rare, we know little about what causes them. In addition, it has been difficult to gauge the effectiveness of police interventions. Despite these limitations, the available evidence suggests that the most promising strategies for addressing the problem are multifaceted and include partnerships with the university and the surrounding community. Developing a comprehensive action plan requires a thorough understanding of the characteristics of student gatherings, and of the particular interventions likely to have the greatest impact.
This guide provides a framework for understanding student gatherings.†† You can use this framework to systematically investigate your local problem of student party riots. You can also use it to develop a wide range of proactive strategies to reduce the potential for student violence and other misconduct. In addition, this guide summarizes interventions used to control past disturbances. You can use these interventions, along with the solutions you develop, to create a comprehensive strategy for addressing your problem.
† In this guide, we use the terms university, college, and school interchangeably to refer to institutions of higher learning.
†† Following the work of McPhail and Wohlstein (1983) [PDF], we prefer the term gathering to crowd, since the latter tends to imply a large group acting in unison, without individual agendas.
Student party riots are often associated with a college sport team's victory or loss. However, disorderly group behavior can also occur during large street parties unrelated to a sports event. Regardless of the initial reason for a gathering,† some gatherings end with intoxicated students' engaging in destructive behavior.††
† For the purposes of this guide, a gathering is a group of 25 or more students with access to alcohol (Shanahan 1995) [PDF]. However, 25 should serve as a general rule of thumb, rather than an absolute minimum.
†† There is no standard term for the problem this guide addresses. Some people use the name "celebratory riots," but this trivializes the outbursts, and many of them are not celebrations of anything in particular. Four characteristics define these problems: they take place on or near college campuses; most of the participants are university students; these students, and others, drink a lot of alcohol; and the events range in intensity from noisy parties to serious riots with injuries and property damage. One possibility was to call these problems USARDs, for University Student Alcohol-Related Disturbances. Even though that term accurately describes the problem, it is awkward and hard to remember. Student party riots is brief, clearly conveys the basic idea, and is easily understood.
In some jurisdictions, creating such disturbances becomes a "tradition" among students. For example, on or around May 5 each year, University of Cincinnati students attend a Cinco de Mayo celebration that often results in rioting. Madison, Wisconsin, police prepare for an annual Halloween celebration that has, in the past, ended in clashes between students and officers. In Columbus, Ohio, the risk of a riot increases following a football game between Ohio State University and the University of Michigan. These and similar events tend to attract more and more students and other revelers each year, which in turn can lead to larger gatherings that end in more violence and destruction. Thus it is imperative that police not let a single riotous event become a student tradition.
Student party riots tend to share the following characteristics:
Along with student party riots, police face other youth-disorder problems, ones not directly addressed in this guide. The following require separate analyses and responses:
Factors Contributing to Student Party Riots
Understanding the factors that contribute to your problem will help you frame your own local analysis questions, recognize key intervention points, select appropriate responses, and determine effectiveness measures.
What We Know About the Structure/Characteristics of Student Gatherings
Most gatherings are not completely spontaneous: some degree of planning is typically required to bring a lot of people together. Furthermore, gatherings have a "life cycle" that consists of at least five discernable stages: (1) initial planning, (2) preassembly preparation, (3) assembling process, (4) assembled gathering, and (5) dispersal process (see figure).† Once police determine that a student gathering is in the works, they can reduce the likelihood of disorderly behavior by applying a number of prevention strategies at each stage.
† The five-stage student-gathering model in this guide is an extension of McPhail's work. McPhail (1991) suggests that temporary gatherings have a life cycle that includes an assembling process, the assembled gathering, and a dispersal process. The model presented here encourages police to develop intervention strategies targeting earlier stages in the process.
Five stages of a gathering's "life cycle."
Stage 1: Initial planning. A few students decide to host a party. They decide whom to invite, how to invite them, when and where to hold the party, what activities (if any) the party will include, and what they need to do to make it happen. The length of this planning stage may vary greatly. Some gatherings may occur with little forethought, such as when students go to a popular bar after a big sports event. However, students may plan other gatherings a year or more in advance. They may choose party locations either hastily or carefully. Similarly, invitations can come via flyers posted months in advance, word of mouth, or simple cues that indicate people are gathering nearby. The more students are aware of when and where gatherings are likely to occur, the more spontaneous the gatherings will appear; little advanced planning and communication is needed if students regularly gather at a particular location after an event. The more frequently the gatherings occur, the more predictable they become, and the less effort is needed for future planning.
Stage 2: Preassembly preparation. Alcohol, typically obtained by the hosts or the guests within a few days or hours of a scheduled event, plays a significant role in student party riots. Obtaining alcohol is only one of several possible tasks done during the preassembly preparation. Students may also decorate, talk with friends or neighbors, or gather belongings to take with them to the event. They may even give one another last-minute notice of any possible police presence. The length of this stage will depend on the degree of planning or spontaneity involved.
Stage 3: Assembling process. In the assembling process, people head for the gathering. Their transportation methods are of interest. They may drive alone or with friends, walk, take a taxi or bus, or simply step out of their front doors and into the street. Transportation can affect several aspects of the gathering, including who can attend and how long it lasts. Transportation also has implications for the final stage.
Stage 4: Assembled gathering. The assembled gathering usually receives the most media, police, and other attention. It may be easy to forget that most gatherings, including student gatherings, remain orderly. People tend to congregate in small groups and spend most of their time talking and observing others similarly engaged. However, with a gathering that turns violent, signs of disorderly behavior usually surface sometime near the end of it, after participants have drunk a lot of alcohol. The disturbance is likely to carry over into the next stage.
Stage 5: Dispersal process. Transportation methods are again important during the dispersal process. During this stage, the police must encourage movement away from the gathering, while preventing the spread of vandalism and violence to nearby areas as people leave the site. During a student riot, police may find themselves trying to disperse drunken participants. Drunken driving may become a problem at this stage if students have used their own vehicles to get to the gathering.
What We Know About Students Who Participate in Riots
Contrary to what some police officials believe, we know that crowds do not drive individuals mad, nor do individuals lose cognitive control.† Experts who have systematically studied gatherings have discredited "madding crowd" theories. Crowd members make their own choices. That is not to say that crowds do not appear to have a will of their own, or that individuals do not often use the crowd as an excuse for their behavior. However, while people may be influenced by others' actions, there is no evidence to suggest that people lose the capacity to control their own behavior simply because others are present.
† One police official was quoted as saying, “Because the mob mentality makes meaningful discussion impossible, and because the members are no longer guided by rational thought, it is critical to avoid any situation that may be misinterpreted” (Begert 1995).
We also know that most students who attend gatherings that result in riots do not behave destructively. Participants at such gatherings attend for a variety of reasons. In a telephone survey of 1,162 Michigan State University students, the top reasons given for attending gatherings were to have fun (65 percent), to meet up with friends (60 percent), and to celebrate (40 percent). Only 5 percent of students said the main reason they party is to get drunk. Other students attend celebrations just to witness them. It has been reported that as many as 50 to 60 percent of attendees are there only to observe.
Those who attend gatherings to cause destruction—and who are of greatest police concern— usually make up the smallest portion of an assembly. University of Cincinnati students were surveyed in 2004 about their experiences at the annual Cinco de Mayo off-campus celebrations. Less than 1 percent of respondents who attended said they destroyed property, and only 1.4 percent said they had engaged in a confrontation with Cincinnati police during the street riots that followed the celebration. These numbers correspond with photos and eyewitness accounts of the event.
Why Some Students Engage in Physical Violence and Property Destruction
Unfortunately, research has been unable to provide a clear profile of the type of person likely to engage in violence at university student gatherings. Given the general characteristics of university students, we know that most attendees, and therefore those who engage in violence, are young adults. Media photos and police records indicate that males are more likely than females to be observed and arrested for committing acts of violence and vandalism. However, this information does not explain why some students engage in physical violence and property destruction, while others do not.
Student party riots often include people who do not attend the university nearest to the gathering. It has been suggested that these individuals are more likely to engage in disruptive behavior. Though this is plausible, since such people have fewer stakes in the university community, no research addresses this issue. We must also be cautious, as "outsider" explanations can be used to shift blame.
Instead of focusing on who, we might ask why students engage in destructive behavior. When a relatively orderly gathering suddenly turns violent, it is referred to as a "flashpoint." It is imperative that police be familiar with and recognize factors that can contribute to a flashpoint.
It has been suggested that boredom or a lull in activity may create the impetus for a violent flashpoint. When the initial excitement of the event has passed (e.g., the team has won or lost, or midnight has passed on New Year's Eve), but dispersal fails to begin, some individuals may want to renew the excitement at the gathering. They will create a new focal point to create or maintain the momentum of the gathering. The new focal point may consist of a few people burning, looting, or otherwise vandalizing property.
While most members of a gathering do not directly participate in riotous behavior, these "nonparticipative" members may further instigate such activity through their mere presence. Typically, as the riotous behavior begins, two simultaneous movements, or surges, occur within the gathering: people move toward those engaged in destructive behavior, and others move away. Those who do not participate in disorder but stay to watch can provide tacit or open support for those engaged in destructive behaviors. This helps to sustain the behavior of the violent minority, while making it difficult for police to remove those causing the disruption and to disperse the gathering.
The Role of Alcohol in Student Party Riots
There is a large and growing body of research that tells us there is a strong correlation between alcohol use and violence and vandalism committed by university students. Research studies show that compared with nondrinking students, students who drink excessively have higher rates of injuries, assaults, academic problems, arrests, vandalism, and other health and social problems. Student surveys and police records have also found a correlation between student drinking and property destruction, vandalism, and violent crime on campus.
While quantitative research and anecdotal evidence may seem to suggest alcohol causes students to become violent and damage property, we must be careful when attempting to interpret these findings. Not all students who get drunk engage in such activities. Much like crowds do not drive people "mad," nor does alcohol drive students to commit crime.
Drinking a lot of alcohol can, however, impair the judgment of people who may already be predisposed to reckless behavior. It has been established that excessive drinking can cause people to act overconfidently and carelessly, lose awareness of their surroundings, and react violently to people they perceive as offensive. This helps to explain why some students, while in the presence of police or other authority figures, continue to vandalize property, become hostile with others, or fight, and fail to disperse when asked to do so.
The Role of Police in Student Party Riots
There is a general consensus among those who study gatherings regarding the importance of police action. Researchers and practitioners agree that the police usually play a significant role in forestalling or provoking disorder. Interviews with officers who have responded to riots suggest that police can escalate—or even initiate—conflict by treating all members of a disruptive gathering as equally dangerous. This guide presents techniques that emphasize the importance of distinguishing between individuals and subgroups within a gathering.
Another important lesson learned from case studies of student party riots is that planning is key. Proactive efforts yield more consistent and desirable results than reactive enforcement methods. Implementing multiple interventions at each of the five stages of a gathering's "life cycle" will help to prevent student misconduct and subsequent police use of force.
Summary of Factors Contributing to Student Party Riots
The information provided above is only a generalized description of the problem of student party riots. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. The specific characteristics of student party riots tend to vary greatly across jurisdictions. Analyzing your local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.
Asking the Right Questions
Since large-scale student party riots are relatively rare, you may not be able to observe an event carefully before formulating your response strategy. You may even have to rely on the details of a single past event when conducting your analysis.
The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of student party riots, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.
When performing your analysis, it can be helpful to consider how the information you collect fits into each of the five stages of student gatherings, so you can tailor your intervention strategies accordingly. You should try to gather as much information about each stage as possible and use multiple information sources. These may include interviews or surveys of students,† community residents, local businesses, and police officers, as well as past media coverage, and police and university records. It may be helpful for police to partner with local universities or researchers to design, test, and administer any proposed surveys.
† For an example of how you can use an online university student survey to gather information about student party riots.
Measuring Your Effectiveness
Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. All measures should be taken in both the target area and the surrounding area. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)
You should consider the possibility of displacing student parties to other sites, and you should consider the possibility that successful prevention at the primary location might prevent disruptive student parties at other locations (i.e., diffusion of crime prevention benefits).  The lack of systematic research into student party riots makes it difficult to give precise advice regarding either displacement or diffusion of benefits. However, there are some rules of thumb that are generally useful. First, the most likely displacement sites will have characteristics similar to the disturbance sites you are already examining. Look for locations that are already student party sites, though at a lower intensity. Potential displacement sites are unlikely to be located far from student concentrations, so the number of possible locations you need to investigate may be quite limited. You can monitor these sites to detect displacement. You should also consider low-intensity interventions designed to limit displacement.†
† As you are relying on your best guesses regarding displacement sites, it is unclear whether they would become troublesome if left unaddressed. So unless they are already troublesome, they probably do not warrant costly interventions. Simple interventions may be sufficient to keep them from becoming major trouble spots.
Diffusion of crime prevention benefits can occur if preventing a disturbance also suppresses other possible disturbances. For example, alcohol controls designed to prevent one disturbance might also make it difficult for smaller drinking parties to grow. University controls and police enforcement can influence students to keep parties small and relatively discreet. Consultations with landlord groups can sensitize landlords throughout the university student community to get more involved in heading off disruptive parties. So while you should focus on preventing specific disturbances, you should also take advantage of potential prevention multipliers.
The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to student party riots:
Your analysis of your local problem should give you a better understanding of the factors contributing to it. Once you have analyzed your local problem and established a baseline for measuring effectiveness, you should consider possible responses to address the problem.
The following response strategies provide a foundation for addressing your particular problem of student party riots. These strategies are drawn from a variety of research studies and police reports. Several of these strategies may apply to your community’s problem. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem. Do not limit yourself to considering what police can do: give careful consideration to who else in your community shares responsibility for the problem and can help police better respond to it, especially students and university officials. Appendix B contains a strategic planning form that can be used to help structure the selection of your responses.
General Considerations for an Effective Action Plan
Each of the following specific response strategies has been used to prevent or substantially reduce harms associated with university student gatherings. However, none has been rigorously evaluated. This means we cannot yet reliably determine which strategies are most effective in particular circumstances. We do know that successful prevention has consistently required a combination of multiple strategies.
You should consider various points of intervention and methods of reducing opportunities for misconduct when you decide what combination of strategies to use in your community. As discussed earlier, gatherings consist of five stages (see earlier figure). Each stage presents us with an opportunity for intervention. Within each stage, you can consider five methods of reducing opportunities for illegal behavior (see appendix B). You can prevent or reduce harm by increasing the effort and risk involved, and reducing the rewards gained, in committing an offense. In addition, you should reduce factors that provoke people to commit crimes, as well as remove excuses that students can use to justify their criminal behaviors.†
† To learn more about techniques for opportunity reduction, see Clarke and Eck (2005).
A comprehensive strategy consists of three key components:
After any intervention to prevent a disturbance, you should convene an after-action meeting that includes representatives of the police, the university, and other involved organizations. This will allow you to exchange information about what worked and what didn’t. You can use this meeting to develop an after-action report. The after-action report should include qualitative information gathered in the meeting, as well as quantitative measures of disturbance-prevention outcomes. In addition, you can use the strategic planning framework presented in appendix B to structure a process evaluation and identify the most effective interventions. You should then use this information to improve your jurisdiction’s strategy for dealing with student party riots.
Responses to Student Party Riots
Each strategy is presented under the intervention point at which it is most likely to be applied. As you tailor your specific response, you might find that your strategy is best applied at a different stage, or that the length of intervention will expand beyond the implementation stage.
1. Creating a multiagency task force. A critical part of any planned response to student party riots involves the building of partnerships with other community stakeholders. This allows police to access a greater range of resources and expertise. You are likely to find that your university has already established partnerships with various community groups, thus reducing the time it will take to put the task force together.
A major partner must be the university or college the students attend. University officials’ reactions are likely to vary from being extremely cooperative to denying that they can do anything to prevent the disturbances. Like many other organizations that have a stake in a problem, universities sometimes assert that the problem is solely that of the police, that they lack the authority to do anything, or that the participants are not associated with them. This is especially likely if the problem is new. Universities may also feign cooperation, but do nothing substantive.
Also, universities are best considered as clusters of communities rather than hierarchical organizations. So even if you obtain cooperation from one group of university officials, this does not necessarily mean all other university groups will be supportive or will not oppose engaging in efforts to prevent another disturbance. However, universities are vulnerable to the negative publicity student party riots can bring, and officials will likely be pressured to do something to prevent a future disturbance.
Partnering with the university and others will help to clarify roles and responsibilities and, in turn, help ensure a more effective implementation of proposed interventions. A student disturbance task force may include members from:
2. Requiring students to get a permit to host a gathering. Officials can impose pre-defined restrictions on gatherings by requiring students to get a permit before hosting a gathering for more than a few friends. Many cities have passed ordinances to help control and oversee the details of large gatherings, ordinances that can easily be extended to cover student gatherings (if they do not already).†
† The city of Blacksburg, Va., has adopted a mass-gathering ordinance that requires applicants to get a permit in advance. Applicants must register sound-amplifying equipment, provide the name of the property owner for the location of the event, list the number of people expected to attend, and demonstrate plans for toilet facilities, noise mitigation, and cleanup. They must also provide evidence that there will be a sufficient number of monitors to help resolve problems that may arise. In Ames, Iowa, the municipal code contains a section titled “Beer Keg Party Regulations.”[PDF]. A permit must be obtained if more than one beer-keg tapper is to be used at or about the same time. The permit holder is responsible for cleaning up trash, maintaining sanitary conditions, and making sure the event is clearly marked and roped off (De Raismes, Gordon, and Amundson 2001).
Requiring permits serves at least two important purposes. First, it notifies authorities of large gatherings in advance, which eliminates the unwanted element of surprise. Second, the pre-defined conditions can be used to limit the number of attendees, control the availability of alcohol, and establish minimum standards that must be met before people can assemble. These restrictions and standards can serve to lessen the likelihood of a disturbance, as well as hold the hosts responsible for any negative outcomes.
3. Assigning police officers as advisors to hosts of gatherings. The population of a university community tends to be dynamic. Estimates vary, but it is not uncommon for a university population to replace itself by 25 percent each academic year. This makes communication about existing rules and regulations challenging for police, university officials, and residents.
Some police departments offer the "Adopt-a-Cop" program to fraternities, sororities, and other student groups. This program allows students to adopt a police officer who serves as a mentor and advisor and can also help keep them informed of legal requirements. This program can be extended to individual students or smaller groups of students who plan to host a large gathering. The officer can help ensure that the student or students meet minimum city and university requirements for such an event. This interaction also has the potential to improve student-police relations as well as community-police relations.
4. Increasing the consequences of rioting, and educating students about the penalties. Increasing the consequences and publicizing the penalties for disturbances is widely used as a deterrent to prevent student rioting. Police and universities have found several ways to increase penalties and to alert students of these changes.
Police in Minnesota notify the Winona State University if they arrest a student, so that the university may take further disciplinary action. At the University of New Hampshire, students are warned that a letter will be sent to the parents of each person under the age of 21 who is arrested by the Durham Police. New students receive door hangers in residence halls to remind them of alcohol laws and policies at the University of Northern Colorado. Students at the University of Cincinnati have previously received e-mails explaining the penalties for riot-related offenses.† Residents in the community surrounding the university have also received door hangers with this information before an expected Cinco de Mayo student street party. Other universities have informed students of the monetary costs of vandalism by posting signs around campus.
† Ohio House Bill 95 states that any student of a state-funded college or university who is convicted of riot-related offenses will be ineligible to receive any student financial aid from state funds for two years from the time they applied for the assistance. Riot-related offenses include rioting, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, and misconduct at the scene of an emergency.
Police may want to advocate the establishment of penalties, if they do not already exist. This can be done at either the state or local level of government. Police may also want to work to improve communication with the local university so that students who are arrested for rioting will also be subject to university penalties.
New students receive door hangers in residence halls
to remind them of alcohol laws and policies at the
University of Cincinnati.
5. Partnering with the media to influence student and community perceptions. Media coverage of student party riots is often viewed as negative, especially when the coverage focuses on the damage done and creates unwanted political pressures. However, proactive partnerships with the media can help police to influence student and community perceptions of an event. Communication with the media can create a positive image of an event for the community and help discourage trouble-seeking students from attending.
The Lincoln Police Department has kept local Nebraska media informed of police presence at parties to increase students’ perception of risk. They claim that their media strategy has been vital to maximizing the deterrent effect of a small number of student arrests.
In addition to local newspapers and television news channels, student newspapers and university newsletters can also provide forums for communicating with students and the surrounding community.
6. Working with landlords to ensure renter compliance. Student party riots have occurred in locations where students rent a high percentage of houses or apartments. In these instances, landlords may be absent and unaware of their tenants’ actions. Police in one community found that most landlords were willing to help deal with disorderly students, but that communication was a problem. Police may find it useful to find a way to let landlords know what is occurring on their properties.
If landlords are unwilling to help police, legal requirements can be used to force landlords to remove problematic tenants. Winona State University implemented several programs to combat alcohol-related problems. One is the Landlord Tenant Ordinance, which requires landlords to evict occupants after three violations. If landlords fail to comply, they face a fine and suspension of their rental license.
7. Controlling alcohol distribution. Attempts to limit alcohol distribution can reduce student drunken driving and underage drinking. They may also reduce how physically and psychologically impaired those who usually drink a lot at student gatherings become. Controls on alcohol purchases have been established by working with vendors, targeting underage students, establishing city ordinances, and limiting the number of liquor outlets.
Police can provide free false-identification training for vendors and their employees to help reduce illegal sales to underage students., † Police can also work with vendors to identify minors using fake IDs. This can help police determine the source of the IDs and increase the risk of apprehension for students who attempt to use them. In addition, police may conduct saturation patrols at known underage drinking parties to target those who supply alcohol to minors.
† See Underage Drinking, guide No. 27in this series, for further guidance on controlling this aspect of the problem.
In Minnesota, the Winona City Council passed an ordinance to control and track keg distribution. A person must first get council approval if he or she wishes to have two or more half-barrels of beer in a residentially zoned area. Liquor retailers must also keep detailed records of all barrels sold.
Research shows that student party riots around universities can be reduced by limiting the presence of alcohol outlets and advertisements. The number of stores that sell alcoholic beverages in an area has been correlated with heavy drinking, frequent drinking, and drinking-related problems in student populations. Some cities have placed moratoriums on new liquor establishments to control distribution of alcohol within college communities.
It should also be noted that there is a trade-off between the costs and benefits of beer kegs versus bottled or canned beer. Kegs are less expensive and allow students to drink a lot. However, using paper or plastic cups to drink from kegs can be safer than drinking from bottles or cans, which people can use as weapons or projectiles. Broken glass on the street can also produce unintended injuries. Since bottled and canned beer is more expensive, students may not drink as much. On the other hand, keg distribution tends to be more centralized and therefore easier to monitor than the sale of bottled or canned beer.
8. Providing alternative entertainment. Providing alternative attractions to large gatherings can reduce the number of people and subsequent problems associated with an event. In La Crosse, Wisconsin, a campus dance and volleyball tournament were arranged as alternative attractions to an annual canoe race that previously resulted in 150 arrests or more each year. The number of arrests at the canoe race dropped to 14 as a result of these and other interventions. Other universities offer more routine alternatives to drinking parties. The "LateNight PennState" program provides a variety of alcohol-free activities during prime-time social hours (9 p.m. to 2 a.m.). The University of Northern Colorado publishes a list of alcohol-free events on campus for students living in resident halls.
9. Asking students to participate in "student patrols." To further extend the responsibility of party hosts, police can ask organizers to help form "peer" security groups within the gathering. Similar to student patrols colleges train and use to patrol campus events, student organizers can help to maintain order at large gatherings and reduce the need for intervention by authorities.
Student patrols can help maintain order at large gatherings and reduce the need for intervention by authorities.
Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign www.dps.uiuc.edu
10. "Sanitizing" the gathering location. Any liftable object can become a weapon. Anything that is flammable may be set on fire. Therefore, police may want to coordinate their efforts with the city sanitation department to "sanitize" a gathering location shortly before the event.† A general street cleanup should be conducted both before and after the event, removing bottles and other debris that might be used as weapons. Sanitation should include the removal of dumpsters and trash cans that can be set on fire and thrown, tipped over, smashed into patrol cars, or used to block roads. Wooden park benches that can be stacked and burned should also be secured.
Police can also step up code enforcement on private properties to help remove debris. Life-safety code inspections by fire department personnel can help in identifying and reducing hazardous conditions.
† While working with the Redlands, California, police, Madensen observed several neighborhood cleanups to remove trash and discarded furniture, thus preventing conditions that could lead to fires, injuries, or death. While a freshman at the University of Michigan in the early 1970s, Eck was told that the university had replaced loose bricks used around sidewalk tree plantings with materials that students could not hurl at police. Students in Plattsburgh, N.Y., participate in a dorm-room game called “furniture out the window.” As the name suggests, drunken students compete by throwing unsecured furniture out of dorm windows. This results in costly property damage and can cause serious injury (Epstein and Finn 1997) [PDF].
11. Monitoring advertisements for gatherings. Universities that require students to get approval before posting fliers on campus  are in a position to notify police if a large gathering is being advertised. By tracking this information, police and university officials will have advance notice of planned gatherings. They will also have information concerning the identity of the organizers, location, time, and, possibly, activities planned for the gathering.
12. Limiting parking. Limiting parking at or near a gathering can help to reduce the amount of damage should a disturbance occur. Forcing people to park some distance away increases the effort needed to get to the event. This may discourage some people from attending. No-parking zones at the event location reduce the likelihood that cars will be flipped, burned, or vandalized by members of the gathering. In addition, efforts to disperse the gathering in case of emergency will not be hampered by traffic jams or accidents caused by a panic.
Wendy Chao - www.wendychao.com
No-parking zones at event locations can reduce the
likelihood that cars
will be flipped, burned or vandalized.
13. Closing or controlling traffic flow. Police should consider closing certain streets to traffic. This will create more space for pedestrians and prevent cars from passing through the gathering. It will also serve to prevent students from bringing in large signs or other items that they can burn or use as weapons.
14. Providing transportation to the event. Free bus transportation to the event from a centralized location can help facilitate an orderly gathering. This can reduce the number of cars at the event location (see response 12 above). Providing transportation allows authorities to control the time of arrival and the number of people arriving at once. This can also prevent individual students from bringing in large quantities of alcohol. The neighboring university, local school system, or other city agencies that traditionally provide transit services may be willing to donate buses and drivers.
15. Establishing a positive police presence. It is important that police do not provoke a disturbance by appearing overly aggressive or hostile toward members of the gathering. In an effort to change their emphasis from reactive to proactive policing, the Metropolitan Toronto Police now greet people as they arrive at gatherings. The greeting serves to initiate conversations and humanize both police and gathering members. This initial contact makes attendees and police more receptive to later communication and reduces the anonymity of both.
16. Establishing and controlling gathering perimeters. Establishing a boundary as soon as people begin to assemble can help in maintaining control of the event until dispersal, and can prevent any disturbance from spreading to the surrounding areas. Once a disturbance begins, it typically moves quickly and can engulf large areas as it escalates. To gain control of a disturbance, it is essential that perimeters are in place to restrict outsiders’ ability to engage in violence and destruction. To establish perimeters, police should look for and use natural barriers. Natural and man-made barriers allow the police to do more with fewer officers.
17. Using alternative deployment methods. Many police departments use alternative officer- deployment methods when policing large gatherings. If available, mounted patrols have particular advantages over traditional car or foot patrols. For example, police can use horses to create a wedge in a gathering, after which foot officers can follow. People at the gathering can more easily see hand directions given by mounted officers. Furthermore, it is reported that most people view police horses positively, and this may improve relations between gathering members and those policing the event.
Bike patrol also has several advantages. Police officials have argued that bikes are more effective in policing gatherings than foot or car patrols due to their speed and mobility. Bike officers can perform static and moving maneuvers to create visibility, barriers, and openings in the gathering.† In general, bike patrols are more effective in low-density gatherings that cover large areas, while foot patrols are most effective in dealing with high-density gatherings in smaller areas.
† Static maneuvers use bikes in a small geographic area. “Post” and “barrier” are the two most common assignments. In post, the bike unit maintains a high-visibility presence in a particular location (e.g., a single corner or entire city block). In barrier, officers use bikes to block or fence off a street, entryway, or other large area by positioning them wheel to wheel. They can then become a moving tactic called “mobile fencing,” as officers lift the bikes to their chest and press them toward the gathering. Moving maneuvers use bikes in conducting standard crowd-control movements: columns, lines, diagonals, wedges, and crossbow bring officers to a particular point in the gathering to remove a hazard or make an arrest (Goetz 2002) [PDF].
Small groups of officers—typically six to eight—have been used to effectively manage large gatherings. These small teams are large enough to defend themselves, but are not large enough to instigate a disruption. The Lincoln Police Department deploys a single group of these officers, called a Party Patrol, on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights during the academic year to locate and respond to large student parties.
18. Using visual deterrents to inhibit misconduct. Police can use visual deterrents to warn students that officers will act if they engage in disruptive behavior. For example, police may position a highly recognizable "prison bus" to act as a deterrent to those less likely to engage in a disturbance. Police officers distributing brochures listing the penalties for riotous behavior may also have a deterrent effect. Too many visual deterrents, however, may appear hostile to some in the gathering, and instigate a disturbance. Others may become desensitized to the overuse of such visuals.
19. Videotaping the assembled gathering. Anything that can reduce the anonymity of people at a gathering can help to undermine the momentum of those who wish to start trouble. Students may be less likely to feel as though their actions and identities will go undetected by authorities if the event is being recorded. If a disturbance does occur, police can later use video taken of the gathering to identify those who instigated and participated in the disturbance.
20. Strategically locating the media around the gathering. Students are often drawn to news crews in hopes of appearing on television or being pictured or quoted in a magazine or newspaper. Police can use the media to help control gatherings by placing them away from the densest areas of the event. Placing cameras at different points can spread the students more evenly throughout the area and serve to break the cohesion of large groups.
The major objective for police at large gatherings is to keep people moving and in small groups. A mobile unit should make an evaluation if any suspicious activity is observed, if a single subgroup begins to increase significantly in size, or if there is a significant lull in activity that is not followed by student dispersal.
Police should identify, isolate, and remove aggressive students as soon as possible, without disrupting the rest of the event. Police do not want to instigate violence with their presence or actions. Therefore, they should use only subtle "shows of force" to deal with problem individuals, and take them away without antagonizing the rest of the gathering members. Police may want to establish observation posts above the gathering, and use radios to direct small arrest teams on the ground.
Intervening only to extract problem individuals and remove anything that threatens to become a focal point allows the celebration to continue. Without needing to respond to major acts of violence or vandalism, police can allow the people in the gathering to essentially wear themselves out and lose interest in staying at the event.
22. Developing a standard operating procedure in case of a disturbance. Although the focus should be on preventative efforts, police are not always aware of gatherings until someone reports a disturbance. Unfortunately, even the best strategies can sometimes fail to prevent a disturbance. For this reason, police must not forget to develop a well-planned standard operating procedure for responding in case one occurs. While a detailed review of the tactics and procedures police use to quell a large disturbance is beyond the scope of this guide, you can find additional materials on the National Criminal Justice Reference Service web site.†
† The web address for the National Criminal Justice Reference Service is www.ncjrs.org. You can find documents related to crowd and riot control by searching the library abstracts contained in the site.
23. Providing transportation from the event. Providing transportation from the event to dorms or some other centralized location allows police to initiate and control the dispersal process. This can reduce loitering and students’ ability to vandalize other students’ vehicles. It also may reduce student drunken driving.
If providing transportation is not a viable option, you should check on the availability of public transportation. If the event ends after public transportation has stopped, then problems may arise. Police should partner with the local transit authorities to determine if public transportation hours can be extended for that day or evening.
24. Facilitating orderly dispersal. Recognizing when to begin to facilitate dispersal of a gathering is crucial. One indication that a gathering is ready for dispersal is when people begin to break into smaller conversational groups. At this point the gathering has lost its cohesion, and police should begin to ask people to leave. Individuals will be more receptive to this command because the anonymity of the larger group no longer protects them.
If a disturbance breaks out during the dispersal process, a tactical deployment of officers should focus on the element involved in criminal activity. Other uniformed officers should simultaneously help bystanders and other nonparticipating individuals to leave the area.
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
25. Developing reactive responses only. The importance of developing multiple proactive strategies has been stressed throughout this guide. Increasing the effectiveness of a preplanned standard operating procedure in case of an actual disturbance is important. This alone, however, is unlikely to prevent a disturbance. This is especially true if your jurisdiction has experienced more than a single student party riot. If many of these events have occurred over several years, students may feel more committed to the event, and less receptive to official intervention. Sanctions may also fail to prove a strong deterrent. Working with multiple partners, including students, to develop proactive interventions holds the greatest potential for reducing the likelihood of another disturbance.
26. Banning all student parties. A zero-tolerance approach to student parties may not produce the intended outcome. There are civil liberty issues associated with this approach, especially if the parties occur off campus. Also, harassing students who throw nondestructive parties can strain student-police relations. Students may engage in retaliatory or destructive behaviors if they perceive police actions as unjust.
27. Relying on parental control. Many universities have implemented a "parental notification" system that informs parents of student misbehavior. Some parents may pay for their son or daughter’s tuition and/or living expenses. For these students, parental notification may provide a strong deterrent to engaging in student party riots. This strategy is likely to be less effective, however, for students who live on their own and are financially independent. There can also be confidentiality issues associated with sharing personal information about individuals who are over 18 with anyone, including their parents.
A comprehensive strategy should address the five stages of a student gathering presented earlier (see figure). It should also incorporate Ronald Clarke’s techniques of situational prevention. These techniques fall under five general types of opportunity-reduction: increase the effort needed to commit an offense, increase the risk of detection, reduce the rewards gained from committing crime, reduce factors that can provoke a criminal response, and remove excuses justifying illegal behavior.† The five gathering stages and five opportunity-reduction types can be combined to produce a strategic planning framework for preventing student party riots. Using this framework to organize and select your interventions will allow you to determine whether you have considered all intervention points (gathering stages) and opportunity-reduction types.
† For more information on Clarke’s situational prevention techniques, see the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing website: http://popcenter.org.
The following form provides an example of how you can use this strategic planning framework to develop a comprehensive strategy. It is not necessary to fill each cell with an intervention to create an effective action plan. Instead, using this table to classify your strategies will allow you to see whether there are opportunity-reduction types (rows) you have not considered, and whether you are concentrating too much or too little of your effort at a single intervention stage (columns). At minimum, a comprehensive strategy addresses each of the five stages. You should use at least two different types of responses at each stage to increase your likelihood of success.
As you can see, the example provided for addressing the student riot at Riverside Drive and 13th Street is weakest at stages 3 (assembling process) and 4 (assembled gathering). Two interventions should be used at each stage; however, no interventions are planned for the assembling process. Although two interventions are planned for the assembled gathering, both increase the risk of detection. Therefore, a different opportunity-reduction-type intervention should be included at this stage. The planning assessment section at the bottom of the form allows a supervisor to quickly see whether the action plan meets the basic criteria for a comprehensive strategy. A blank planning form is provided for you to duplicate and use when formulating your particular strategy.
|Strategic Planning Framework for Preventing Student Party Riots|
Event: Student riot at Riverside Drive and 13th Street__ Date: April 1, 2006_____________
Classification of Interventions
·Require party permits
·Enforce no- parking
·Use alternative deployment methods
·Use student patrols
·Use Adopt-a-Cop program
NUMBER OF TYPES USED
1. Have you used at least
two interventions during each stage (see total
2. If not, which stage or stages are lacking two interventions?
__Assembling Process _____________________________________________________________
3. Have you used at least
two different opportunity-reduction types during each stage (see number of types used row)?
4. If not, which stage or stages are lacking multiple opportunity-reduction types?
__Assembling Process and Assembled Gathering__________________________________________*You should consider changes or additions to your overall action plan if you answered "no" to any of the above questions.
The table below summarizes the responses to student party riots, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.
|#||Response||How It Works||Works Best If…||Considerations||Initial Planning|
|1||Creating a multiagency task force||Brings together a variety of community resources, and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the groups involved||…there is community or city pressure to prevent disturbances, so that more organizations and agencies will be willing to assist police||Some agencies may be reluctant to get involved, especially if there has been negative press concerning previous efforts to control disturbances|
|2||Requiring students to get a permit to host a gathering||Notifies authorities of a gathering in advance, sets restrictions and standards for the event, and holds hosts responsible for meeting basic requirements||…a city ordinance already requires such applications, and this requirement can easily be communicated to students and the surrounding community||The city council may have to pass new legislation|
|3||Assigning police officers as advisors to hosts of gatherings||Officers help students to meet legal requirements for hosting a gathering||…there is an available campus or community officer with whom the students are familiar||Students hosting the gathering may not be willing to work with police|
|4||Increasing the consequences of rioting, and educating students about the penalties||Deters students from engaging in destructive behaviors at gatherings||…laws and sanctions prohibiting rioting are in place, and students perceive these penalties as a credible threat for misbehaving||Penalties must already exist and be severe enough to offset the perceived benefits of engaging in a disturbance|
|5||Partnering with the media to influence student and community perceptions||Increases positive perceptions of the event and perceptions of risk for those interested in causing a disturbance||…the police can or have established positive relationships with the media||Interventions must be developed and implementation must begin before the media can focus on these strategies|
|6||Working with landlords to ensure renter compliance||Creates an additional element of risk for students who host disruptive gatherings on rented property; encourages landlord participation in preventing disruptive gatherings||…police have the full cooperation of landlords||Without the backing of legal requirements, it may be difficult to obtain the assistance of absentee or uncooperative landlords|
|7||Controlling alcohol distribution||Reduces student alcohol consumption, underage drinking and purchasing of alcohol, and drunken driving||…a multifaceted approach is used that targets vendors, students, local laws, and liquor outlets||Some strategies are easier to implement than others; limiting the number of alcohol outlets may take many years, require local government cooperation, and create significant opposition|
|8||Providing alternative entertainment||Reduces the number of people at a single gathering; provides other recreation opportunities in a more controlled setting||…the alternatives are attractive to college-aged individuals||University-sponsored events often do not serve alcohol due to liabilities; this may decrease general interest in the event if alcohol is being offered elsewhere|
|#||Response||How It Works||Works Best If…||Considerations|
|9||Asking students to participate in "student patrols"||Allows peers to "police" themselves; reduces the need for official interventions||…those in charge of security are seen as authority figures, and other attendees respect this authority||This must involve a tightly coordinated effort between the student patrols and police in case of a violent outbreak or emergency; students who patrol should not be asked to engage in dangerous situations|
|10||"Sanitizing" the gathering location||Removes objects that can become a safety hazard||…multiple agencies help police to identify and remove hazardous materials||To prevent new debris from collecting at the location, final cleanup should not be organized too far in advance of the event|
|11||Monitoring advertisements for gatherings||Notifies authorities of large gatherings in advance||…there is clear and immediate communication between university officials and police once fliers are posted||Students may continue to post fliers without proper approval; officials must have a monitoring system in place to track and remove this material|
|12||Limiting parking||Increases the effort needed to attend; removes targets that may be vandalized; clears exits in case of an emergency||…police enforce no- parking at the event location and in the immediate adjacent areas||Opposition may arise if residents do not have access to off-street parking; police should also anticipate where students will park instead, to prepare for possible traffic problems or citizen complaints|
|13||Closing or controlling traffic flow||Reduces pedestrian injuries; prevents students from bringing in large, dangerous objects||…the measures do not significantly disrupt busy traffic routes during peak traffic hours||Closing major thoroughfares will require planning and coordination with the media to alert the public of alternative traffic routes|
|#||Response||How It Works||Works Best If…||Considerations|
|14||Providing transportation to the event||Facilitates orderly arrival; reduces the number of cars at the event; prevents attendees from bringing large quantities of alcohol to the event||…the transportation leaves from an easily accessible, centralized location||Police need to consider the number of buses or vans needed to transport the expected number of attendees, and the liability associated with providing this service|
|15||Establishing a positive police presence||Reduces anonymity and facilitates communication||…police presence is established early on, preferably as people begin to assemble||Hosts and attendees may view any police presence as negative|
|16||Establishing and controlling gathering perimeters||Prevents the gathering from spreading too far into the surrounding areas||…natural barriers are used||The size of the most appropriate perimeter may be difficult to determine before full assembly; police should make necessary adjustments as people arrive and begin to disperse|
|#||Response||How It Works||Works Best If…||Considerations|
|17||Using alternative deployment methods||Gives officers a tactical advantage over car patrols||…police use more than one deployment method||Police cars are still likely to be needed, but should not be the principle method of deployment within the gathering|
|18||Using visual deterrents to inhibit misconduct||Deters attendees by reminding them of the consequences of rioting||…all members of the gathering can see the "deterrent"||Police must maintain an appropriate level of deterrence, without appearing overly hostile|
|19||Videotaping the assembled gathering||Reduces anonymity; assists in subsequent investigations||…attendees are aware they are being filmed||Civil liberty issues may be called into question if the gathering is held on private property|
|20||Strategically locating the media around the gathering||Breaks the cohesion of large groups||…the media are spread evenly throughout the area||The media may want access to film from various locations and fail to cooperate with police requests|
|21||Recognizing and immediately removing factors that could lead to a flashpoint||Removes the impetus that causes a violent outbreak||…there are enough police to adequately observe the entire gathering’s activities||Police may contribute to a flash point if they unnecessarily harass people who are not engaged in destructive behavior|
|22||Developing a standard operating procedure in case of a disturbance||Contains and stops violence after it begins||…police use force only when necessary and target only those individuals engaged in disruptive behavior||Reactive strategies, if perceived as unjust, can serve to instigate rather than inhibit violent activity|
|#||Response||How It Works||Works Best If…||Considerations|
|23||Providing transportation from the event||Controls dispersal; reduces drunken driving||…people are returned as soon as possible, without having to wait too long in a crowded place for transportation||If too many people are dropped off at the same place at the same time, a disturbance may occur at this secondary location|
|24||Facilitating orderly dispersal||Breaks up the gathering before a disturbance begins||…police wait until people break into smaller groups||Shutting down the event too early may lead some people to resist police authority and possibly rebel by vandalizing property or attacking officers|
|Responses With Limited Effectiveness|
|#||Response||How It Works||Works Best If…||Considerations|
|25||Developing reactive responses only||Suppresses a disturbance once it begins||These do little to prevent disturbances, and may even instigate them|
|26||Banning all student parties||Prohibits alcohol- related gatherings at venues where a ban can be enforced||…there are no easy alternative locations where the ban cannot be enforced||There are civil liberty issues associated with this tactic, and students may refuse to comply, particularly those living off-campus|
|27||Relying on parental control||Deters students through parental informal social control||…students still live with their parents or rely on them for financial support||Sharing information with parents of individuals over 18 may violate privacy laws|
 Police and other agencies and organizations prevented a Cinco de Mayo riot in 2004.
 Police arrested 519 people over the Halloween weekend in 2004 (source: Wisconsin News Channel 3000 story aired Nov. 18, 2004: "How Much Did Halloween Riots Cost This Year?").
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The quality and focus of these submissions vary considerably. With the exception of those submissions selected as winners or finalists, these documents are unedited and are reproduced in the condition in which they were submitted. They may nevertheless contain useful information or may report innovative projects.
Coon Creek Canoe Race [Goldstein Award Finalist], La Crosse Police Department, 1994
Halloween on State Street [Goldstein Award Finalist], Madison Police Department (Madison, WI, US), 2008
Melee in the Mall, Tallahassee Police Department, 2001
University Hill Community Improvement Plan, Boulder Police Department, 2002
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