Police stress safety ahead of Welcome Weekend
As students and visitors convene in Mount Pleasant for Welcome Weekend 2017, local law enforcement stressed the importance of safety for everyone involved.
The Central Michigan University Police Department and Mount Pleasant Police Department have been preparing for Welcome Weekend, when students and visitors celebrate the return to campus with parties in Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.
MPPD Officer Jeff Browne said the city is not changing the way it operates during Welcome Weekend. As for the potential number of tickets or citations issued this year, he said it is up for the individual to decide.
The Monday after Welcome Weekend, more than 50 bags of trash were picked up by student members of the Greek community.
The night before, a number of those same students were handed citations by police from the 10 law enforcement agencies out during the weekend.
“We don’t dictate the tickets – people dictate the tickets,” Browne said.
In the past, Browne said the types of service calls were the about the same from 2015-16. He added there were more law enforcement personnel last year, so there was more proactive enforcement. Only one street was shut down due to blockage by people last year as opposed to several in 2015, Browne said.
“We want a safe place for people who live here and people who are coming to visit,” he said.
Sometimes the community cannot be a safe place on Welcome Weekend, Browne said. Last year, the MPPD arrested or cited 24 people for disorderly conduct, 78 for minor in possession, 59 for attending or hosting a nuisance party, 166 for open intoxicants, four for operating under intoxication of liquor and 11 instances of violation of controlled substances.
There were 653 calls for service by the MPPD in 2016, as opposed to 574 in 2015. There were also three incidents of criminal sexual conduct during last year’s events.
“You can’t have fun if it’s not safe,” Browne said.
Lt. Cameron Wassman of CMUPD confirmed last year’s reported results of 16 citations, 21 arrests and 16 ambulance calls for intoxication on campus.
“These types of weekends are typical from year-to-year,” Wassman said. “Sometimes, the numbers are up, sometimes they’re down. A lot of it depends on the weather.”
The National Weather Service calls for a partly cloudy Thursday evening and mostly clear skies on Friday and Saturday nights. Temperatures for each day are around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wassman said most crime occurs off campus. He added CMUPD has five-to-six officers patrolling campus each night, while four officers will assist the city and other law enforcement on north campus.
Browne said the Michigan State Police and Alma and St. Louis police are among the officers patrolling the Mount Pleasant streets this weekend. Wassman said almost all of CMUPD will be working.
Browne and Wassman both said the most common citations are minor in possession or open intoxicants. They advised that individuals cannot have open alcohol from one city sidewalk to the other. They also said nuisance parties have been an issue recently.
Wassman said CMUPD plans to put messages out on social media before Welcome Weekend to keep students informed of local laws. Browne said law enforcement and CMU personnel patrolled residences north of Bellows Street on Wednesday to notify students of laws, city ordinances and provide the opportunity for questions.
Browne said door hangers with city ordinances and state laws were handed out.
Most of tickets written or arrests on Welcome Weekend are to nonstudents, Wassman said. Browne said it’s a mix of both students and visitors, adding CMU students usually host parties.
“We’re not out to be too strict,” Browne said. “We want everyone to have fun but also want a safe environment to have fun.”
Wassman said avoiding offenses on Welcome Weekend comes down to following university policies, state laws and city ordinances. He said the most important step for people partying this weekend is to take steps to keep themselves and others safe.
“Don’t consume alcohol to the point where you cannot make a rational decision,” Wassman said.
Wassman, who celebrates his 17th year as a member of the CMUPD this fall, said there is a misconception that some ordinances are relaxed or ignored on Welcome Weekend. That is not the case, he said, and police expect people to follow the rules.
“CMU is part of the Mount Pleasant community,” Wassman said. “We have to be good neighbors.”
Mayor Kathy Ling said “not a year goes by” where the city doesn’t receive complaints from residents about Welcome Weekend. The city has recently reactivated its City/CMU Student Liaison Committee with student representatives from CMU, city officials and community members to address these issues.
“We certainly make it clear that everybody — students and nonstudents — all make sure that everyone feels respected and safe,” Ling said. “Their well-being is the concern of the city.”
Wassman said a couple of years ago, an organized group that were not CMU students came to Mount Pleasant on Welcome Weekend with the sole intention of committing crimes. Houses and cars were broken into and fighting occurred.
“We want to put a stop to that kind of behavior,” he said.