Dr. Debra H. Bernat, research assistant professor in the department of behavioral and community health department at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, led a national study on campus security and law enforcement’s handling of student alcohol violations. The study, published in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that campus security and law enforcement are not likely to issue citations for alcohol violations.
“The most common response of campus security and law enforcement was to contact campus officials, who may enforce campus-based sanctions or discipline,” Dr. Bernat said. “Heavy drinking is more common among college students than among young adults as a whole, and may lead to numerous problems on college campuses, ranging from academic problems to sexual assault. A better understanding of how campus police and security handle alcohol violations is important in addressing this issue on college campuses.”
The directors of campus police or security from 343 colleges and universities completed a survey detailing their usual practice in response to serious, underage, and less serious alcohol-related incidents on and off campus. Seventy-eight percent of respondents reported that drinking was a major or moderate problem on campus.
“There are very few studies, particularly large-scale ones, that assess how campus law enforcement handles alcohol violations,” Dr. Bernat added.
For serious or underage alcohol violations, most campus law enforcement entities reported that they contacted campus officials, with about 35 percent of such violations leading to citations or criminal charges for the offender. A minority of such students – about 15 percent – were referred to the health center or their parents were contacted about the incident. For incidents deemed less serious, campus law enforcement contacted college officials 45 percent of the time, with citations or criminal charges resulting in about 17 percent of incidents.
Researchers also found that in campuses located in smaller cities or towns, campus security/law enforcement was more likely to issues citations or criminal charges for alcohol violations.