Both the Lehigh and the Bethlehem police received a grant this year from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Enforcement Board that will be used over the next two years to increase the quality of education and enforcement around Lehigh’s campus.
The two grants, which amount to a total of $39,000 for the two years, were the result of a proposal that the Lehigh and Bethlehem police departments presented to the board.
“It’s always hit and miss because there’s only so much money available in the legislation that is put aside for this,” said Lehigh Police Chief Edward Shupp. “They get somewhere around 250 applications and they give out about 30, so if you can write it (the proposal) in a way that really catches their attention, that’s how you get it.”
Each police department wrote up their own separate proposal, which stated exactly what it would use the money for and what it hoped to achieve through doing these things.
The Lehigh police department wrote their proposal to include all the things they need to improve the alcohol-prevention education on Lehigh’s campus, including the materials to create pamphlets, new equipment such as breathalyzers and increased police to educate people.
Bethlehem Police Capt. Ashley Heiberger said the officers who are working because of the grant have two main goals.
“The primary duties of officers working the grant-funded patrols are education and enforcement,” Heiberger wrote in an email.
Many believe Lehigh and Bethlehem police are cracking down on parties, barbecues and MoCos thrown at off-campus houses. Lehigh students have noticed an increase in the number of parties that get stopped early into the night.
“We’ve been told the police have threatened to issue a citation for any house that is having any event that involves underage drinking, which is something that did not commonly happen last year,” said Tashi Eng, Theta Chi fraternity’s social chair.
Students have also noticed an increase in police patrolling the streets on bicycles, on foot and on horseback. Lehigh recently donated a horse to the Bethlehem police department, which they named Asa.
“People are approachable on a bicycle, on a horse, walking on foot patrol,” Shupp said. “They aren’t approachable in cars, so that’s one of the things that we thought about and that the city wanted to try to do to get to know students a little bit better.”
All of these changes are having an impact on the social scene at Lehigh and they are causing those who throw parties, including sports teams and Greek members, to reevaluate the planning of each night.
Students are now being more cautious of potential risks and thinking more about the South Bethlehem residents who are awoken early by MoCos or kept up late by the parties on East Fifth Street that last late into the night.
“Because of the increased risk of hosting social events, our chapter has seriously reconsidered whether or not certain events are worth having,” Eng said. “We have also improved our risk management system and have been more considerate with the residents of South Bethlehem about the excessive noise.”
The impact of social events on Bethlehem residents and Lehigh students has been a concern of both police departments, and they are working to reduce unruly and hazardous actions.
“The intent of the grant-funded patrols is to reduce underage and dangerous drinking behaviors so as to maintain a healthy and safe environment and improve the quality of life for students, city residents and visitors,” Heiberger wrote.
New educational programs have also been launched by the Lehigh police, including the “buzzkill” pamphlets from the Drug Free Action Alliance that are administered to students. The pamphlet lays out the potential health and legal risks of underage drinking and gives tips on how to host a safe party if of legal age.
The Lehigh police are bringing this new education to the students to help prevent future crime on or around campus. Shupp said if students are displaying obvious signs of intoxication and putting themselves or others in danger, then they have no choice but to cite those students. Their focus, however, is on teaching how to prevent that from happening.
“At the end of the semester, we will be able to give a better number (on progress), but we are administering enough information and doing enough education,” Shupp said. “It’s up to the people to grasp it and understand it and absorb it. We can only bring it to them. They have to decide to listen to it.”