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Arrests linked to season opener

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 12:00 am

In a nerve-wracking finish, Virginia Tech narrowly beat the North Carolina Tar Heels 24-21 during last year's Thursday night matchup. Unfortunately, 72 fans missed part of that victory because they were detained by the Virginia Tech Police Department.

According to the VTPD’s crime log, 17 offenses were related to the underage possession of alcohol, while 64 were for appearing intoxicated in public.

Brian Young, a junior mechanical engineering major, said while he doesn't attend many games himself, he still gets amusement out of one aspect of game day.

“Tuesday morning is a highlight,” Young said. “You see the crime blotter and read about all these idiot freshmen. You'd think they'd read the paper and see all the people arrested.”

While most football game days see an increase in the number of arrests, more seem to occur during night games. Young explained that a night game is an increased opportunity to tailgate.

“Most games you start tailgating at 8 or 9 a.m. and go until noon,” Young said. “But with a night game, instead of going for four hours, you have 11 hours to tailgate.”

The majority of the arrests during the UNC game were cited as taking place in or around Lane Stadium in the midst of 66,000 jumping, yelling fans. To police such a large number of people, officers from Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford, Roanoke, and Giles are brought in to supplement VTPD's 52 officer force. In total, there are about 100 officers for small games and up to 200 officers for larger games.

The athletic department paid a total of $305,000 for police coverage during the 2011-12 season's seven home games, including the spring game. These funds went first to VTPD, who then distributed the funds to police department's in surrounding localities. Additionally, athletics pays the police for any overtime hours that occur due to the games.

The 72 arrests during last year's UNC game may sound like a high number, but Officer Marshall Hamilton of VTPD says these arrests represent just the most apparent displays.

“It’s a situation where being drunk in public and you’re drawing attention to yourself,” Hamilton said. “Lane Stadium holds 66,000; how drunk and stupid do you have to be to draw attention to yourself around 66,000 people?”

Nick Skarbeck, a junior civil engineering major, said he has seen several people being escorted out of Lane for being drunk in public and while most of the arrests are needed, some seem dubious.

“Usually, I'm happy because (the arrestees) are being out of order, but sometimes it's the opposite and someone is arrested based solely on police suspicion,” Skarbeck said.

However, just because you are out of the stadium doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Many arrests occurring last season happened in the hours after the game, often in the parking lots.

Hamilton said for him to be able to arrest someone for being drunk in public, the person obviously has to be both intoxicated and in a public place. Take away one of those elements, he explained, and he has no legal basis for arrest.

If arrested for an alcohol-related offense within Blacksburg or Montgomery County, the case will be referred to Tech’s judicial system instead of a normal court.

In most cases, a first alcohol violation will result in probation. However, if the violation hurt or endangered others, then the violation will result in deferred suspension or suspension. Additionally, the violator will have to take a five-week, $125 alcohol class.

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