The arrest of more than 100 people at an alleged underage drinking party Friday night may be a new record.

Meadville Police Chief Dave Stefanucci cannot recall city police arresting more people at a party.

“I’ve been in parties bigger, but we didn’t arrest as many,” Stefanucci said, explain that’s because “we had the manpower to deal with it” Friday night.

In addition to two plainclothes Meadville officers who initiated the arrests, other Meadville officers on the night shift, Pennsylvania State Police troopers and Allegheny College Safety and Security personnel were called in to 268 Meadow St., he said. In all, 12 officers responded.

Charges against 107 people, most of them Allegheny College students, will include underage drinking, possession of marijuana, providing false identification to law enforcement, possession of drug paraphernalia and various drunkenness violations, according to police. Two students allegedly hosting the party will receive additional charges, Stefanucci said.

Police confiscated four empty kegs of beer and one full keg, numerous bags of suspected marijuana and suspected drug paraphernalia and approximately $225 in cash that partygoers allegedly paid for beer.

Plainclothes officers were monitoring underage drinking activity in the college area when they observed a large number of people on Meadow and smelled a strong odor of suspected marijuana coming from the back yard.

Police are in the process of preparing the charges against the defendants. “They can face jail time,” Stefanucci said. “It depends if they have previous charges.”

Richard Williams, the city’s director of planning and development, said student housing isn’t allowed in the Meadow Street area because it’s an R-1, or single-family, zoning district. However, some properties, including the property where the alleged party occurred, were student rentals before the rule was made, about two years ago. Such properties can remain student rentals until they are not used for that purpose for about a year. Then they fall under the new rule.

The property has been owned by Anthony D. Musica of North Ridge, Calif. since 2002, and has been a student rental at least that long, Williams said.



Neighborhood reaction

According to two neighborhood residents, the party was barely noticeable.

“I was here,” said Sara Pineo. “I didn’t hear about it (the party and arrests) until I saw it in the Tribune. We didn’t hear any noise. We were watching a movie, then we went to bed.” Overall, she said, “It’s only been an issue with them (students) traipsing across our yard and throwing up along the way,” she said, but they’ve left no trash or property damage.

Fellow neighbor Jane Anderson agreed. “They’ve had some small parties. I’ve seen people walking up and down the street, but I’ve never heard a lot of noise, no litter or stuff like that.” On Friday, “I saw a lot of people, but they were well-behaved. I’ve never really found it a problem.”

But a third resident, who wished not to be identified, said Friday’s party “sounded like a rock concert.”

“There have been problems over the last three years, but the last two weekends have been really bad,” she said. “We’re a very residential neighborhood. They (students) just don’t seem to care. Unless the police really crack down, I don’t think they’ll change their attitudes.”



College speaks out

For the last two years, the college has been working with the city through the Neighborhood Quality of Life Task Force, with the college focusing on educating students on responsible alcohol use and the city following up with law enforcement. To cover the costs, they’ve split grants from the state Liquor Control Board for the last three years. Part of the grant has helped fund extra patrols in the college area like the one that detected Friday’s party.

The task force will meet Thursday, and the arrests will be on the agenda.

Allegheny College Dean of Students Joe DiChristina said the college will follow up in the college’s judicial system with every student charged. “We take it seriously,” he said. “Those students who have had difficulties in the past, there’s a chance we may call their parents. And anyone involved with marijuana will have a severe sanction.” The punishment will depend on exactly what each student did.

The college also released this statement:

“We are disappointed that in spite of the strong alcohol education programs that we offer, a number of our students have been cited for underage drinking and other violations at an off-campus party.

“It is important for students who drink illegally to face the consequences of their actions. Being cited by the police will send a strong message. In addition, the college will take disciplinary action when the details of the citations are released by the police.

“We have appreciated the willingness of the City of Meadville to work with us as we face the problems of student misuse of alcohol — a problem that is faced on campuses nationwide — and we will continue to work with our students, the city and our residential neighbors in the coming months. We are especially grateful to Police Chief Stefanucci and the rest of the force for serving as our partners in this effort; despite the recent setback, neighbors tell us that the off-campus environment has improved significantly as the result of the joint efforts of the city and the college.

“Parents are especially important in helping to set expectations concerning students’ use of alcohol. For that reason, we keep parents as well as students informed about wellness programs at Allegheny College, including the alcohol-free activities that are held on campus almost every Friday and Saturday evening.”



Gary Johnson can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at gjohnson@meadvilletribune.com

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