Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Year for Underage Drinking Arrests Everywhere

Police cite 74 in Ball State drinking sweep

A back-to-school party at a Ball State University fraternity house Saturday night saw nearly two dozen people charged for underage drinking and furnishing alcohol to minors.

It was part of a larger effort by Indiana State Excise Police to crack down on underage drinking by citing 74 people on 88 charges in the university area over the weekend. Excise officers also posed as clerks at a nearby Muncie Liquors Store to nab underage drinkers and patrolled neighborhoods looking for parties and underage drinkers.

Ball State police responded to a complaint about noise and underage drinking at the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house, 904 W. Riverside Ave., according to BSU Police Chief Gene Burton, and sought assistance from excise police who were conducting saturation patrols around campus.

Twenty-one minors were cited by police for consuming alcohol and an adult was arrested for furnishing alcohol to minors at the frat house.

"To my knowledge, we have never been to this fraternity house," Burton said. "Except for this incident, it was a pretty normal weekend for the start of school."

Excise police Sgt. Greg Wiese said only three people out of the 74 cited actually were incarcerated, a juvenile for possessing alcohol, and two adults, Chasity N. Hahn, 24, 2516 W. 11th St., preliminarily charged with public intoxication and false informing, and Sarah E. McHie, 20, 1101 W. Neely Ave., charged with public intoxication and minor possessing alcohol, according to jail records.

The rest were issued citations for charges ranging from possession of alcohol, minor in a package store, public intoxication, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of false identification.

Some enforcement action came with cooperation of Muncie Liquors Stores, which allowed excise officers to pose as clerks and customers and assist employees with checking identification. Three minors were cited for attempting to purchase alcohol at the Muncie Liquors store at Riverside and Wheeling avenues.

The excise effort was part of a statewide effort to stop underage drinking and alcohol sales.

Ball State took steps Monday to suspend the fraternity from any activity, pending an investigation, according to Lynda Wiley, assistant vice president of student affairs. That means fraternity members can meet, but not participate in any university or fraternity-sanctioned events.

Wiley only knew of a handful of citations through the university and did not know whether any fraternity members were cited.

'We have not received any specific information," she said.

It was the first time in recent years that a BSU fraternity has been the subject of an underage drinking raid, Wiley said.

Nathan Elsworth, president of Zeta Beta Tau, said he was unaware of any fraternity member being cited in the raid. Elsworth was at the party and said he had an idea that some partygoers were underage.

"We were just having a little party, and some way or another excise showed up and handed out tickets," he said. "I was willing to cooperate with them."

As many as 50 people attended the party at any one time, Elsworth said, and police arrived about 2 a.m. Sunday when the party ended, citing more than 20 people.

Fraternity members met on Sunday and decided to end any drinking at their frat house, said Elsworth, who noted the group faced not participating in rush or other activities.

WTHR-TV Eyewitness NewsIndianapolis, INAugust 20, 2007
Ball State suspends Zeta Beta Tau's activities
Cat Anderson, Eyewitness News

Muncie - Back to school parties at Ball State University over the weekend led to 74 arrests. Now one of its fraternities is coming under fire for hosting a party where underage drinking was cited by State Excise Police.

Monday was the first day of class at Ball State, but some students have already learned a few lessons the hard way.

"We ended up calling an ambulance to take care of a person because of alcohol poisoning," said Gene Burton, director of BSU Campus Police.

It as just one of the eleven calls Campus Police received over the weekend that resulted in a citation. On top of that, State Excise Police arrested 60 minors on charges including public intoxication, possession of alcohol, marijuana and false identification.

"Historically it's a good time for us to set the tone and get the message out there to campuses year round, but it just seems there's a higher volume of arrests leading up to back to school because kids are coming from other states because they aren't familiar with our agency or what our mission is," said Jennifer Williams, Indiana State Excise Police.

The sweep also led to nine adult arrests on charges of furnishing alcohol to minors. Many of the arrests were made around 2:00 am on Sunday at the Zeta Beta Tau house.

"Once I seen so many cops going in and talking to everyone, I didn't know what to do because I've never seen anything like this before," said Chris Fitzjarrald, SAE fraternity member. "Everybody was looking out our windows wondering what was going on."

The fraternity's president, now in his fifth year at Ball State, immediately changed the house rules.

"As of right now there is no drinking in the house even if you are over 21 and we've asked our brothers not to go to any house parties or anything until we can take care of this on our own hopefully," said Nathan Elsworth, president of Zeta Beta Tau.

Ball State Students who were here in the spring of '04 remember when their Chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha was nearly shut down after alleged alcohol violations. Members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the fraternity across the street, say they're disappointed.

"It hurts the entire Greek community. Even sororities will be hurt by this because this is the first week and this is when we get a lot of pledges that come over and want to rush so when they see that one fraternity that gets busted, that may go under. They might lose their chapter. That's one less fraternity on campus," said one Sigma Alpha Epsilon member.

BSU's Assistant Vice President of Student affairs says they just issued a letter to Zeta Beta Tau today, suspending all of their activities pending an investigation. At that point, they will decide if they need to take any further action.
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