Another year, another large-scale house party busted.
Ninety people were cited for underage drinking after the Whitewater Police Department, with help from UW-Whitewater Campus Police and the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department, broke up a house party at 404 W. Center St. Thursday night.
On Oct. 21, 2010, almost exactly a year ago, 132 underage drinking citations were handed out at a house party at 928 Highland St.
Most of the citations were given to UW-Whitewater students, according to a press release issued by the police department. The release also stated most of the people arrested were concentrated in the basement of the house.
Whitewater Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher said the concentration of so many people in an area that isn’t made to hold that many people is what worries her and the rest of the police department.
“We really want people to be more aware of a number of things,” Otterbacher said. “First of all, the safety … it’s a home and not a bar. It doesn’t have the ability to have those types of capacities for bathroom needs, medical needs and fire escape.
“I worry about the safety of the kids. Somebody could be assaulted or harmed and it’s so congested in a small, confined basement area … Who’s monitoring that alcohol consumption in that large-scale environment? At least the bars we have tavern owners, bartenders and bouncers.”
UW-Whitewater Police Chief Matt Kiederlen said there are a number of reasons these large-scale house parties should not be happening beyond the fact that it’s against the law to drink under the age of 21.
“The best thing that could happen is that the people who are doing this would learn and just stop,” Kiederlen said.
Large-scale house parties like these “tend to disrupt neighborhood stability and can create serious health and safety problems,” the release said.
“We need to look at the community … and being respectful of our neighbors,” Otterbacher said. “Your neighbor may be just trying to put a child to sleep and now we have people [going] through the lawns and yards and there [are] high levels of intoxication.”
When several law enforcement departments have to combine to deal with an event like this, Kiederlen said a lot of the time, these busts are planned out in advance.
“We may get wind of something through students that work for us, through Facebook, any number of ways,” Kiederlen said.
Kiederlen added that extra police officers were not called in to take over campus law enforcement duties because extra officers were on campus already for several events that were happening.
Otterbacher was quick to mention that the university puts lots of time and energy into scheduling fun events that don’t have the safety issues or consequences of a large scale house party.
“The Leadership and Development team on campus works so hard to find great opportunities for kids to take part in things that are happening on campus,” Otterbacher said. “They’re great and they’re fun and they’re inventive and they don’t surround around alcohol. Until you’re 21, simply experience that later in life.”
Kiederlen said, although he realizes what the law states, many people do not get worked up about a couple of people sitting in an apartment or residence hall room somewhere acting in a mature matter and having a couple of drinks together.
“There’s a reasonableness aspect that we all have to embrace,” Kiederlen said. “If those were the situations that were consistently happening, I don’t think there would be much cause for concern. The real advice I have is just don’t be involved in the real large-scale parties.
“If you are going to decide to drink or to utilize any other intoxcating substances, make sure you’re doing it in as safe of a manner as possible. Have somebody that’s going to be with you to watch after you and make sure you’re as safe as possible.”
According to the release, several residents of the house are facing charges of furnishing alcohol to underage persons, sale of alcohol without a license and failure to prevent underage alcohol consumption.
“People who host these parties should know that there are serious consequences for their actions,” the release said. “Their resulting record can also adversely impact future career aspirations and opportunities.”
The Whitewater Police will continue to conduct operations intended to target unlawful house parties, the release said.