Started in St. Paul in response to complaints from neighbors of St. Thomas, Hamline and Macalester students living off campus, the Zero Alcohol Procurement (ZAP) program began in Rice County last spring.
This program funds overtime training for police officers to handle large parties where people may be drinking underage or be belligerently drunk and loud.
When a situation arises, police can call in more officers for back up to break up parties in residential neighborhoods. Once the police have busted a party, they can seal off a house or apartment, detain everyone inside, interview them, issue citations if alcohol has been provided to minors or if minors are in possession, and even arrest those that are belligerent or so intoxicated that the officers deem them a danger to themselves.
Those put in "detox" hold may remain there for several days.
Those that are caught serving minors could face a gross misdemeaner conviction with a fine or a sentence of jail time.
Northfield Police Chief Gary Smith said that the crack-down is due to repeated complaints about residents of rental properties from community members.
Dean of Students Greg Kneser agrees that over the past year relations between students living off-campus and their neighbors have grown tense.
But Kneser also said that landlords have not been held accountable for the behavior of their tenants or building and rental codes.
A coalition of administrators from both St. Olaf and Carleton, community members, community leaders and landlords met this summer to discuss these concerns. Kneser said that the group reached the consensus that the police do not need to change the actions they take, and that city policies need to be changed to hold the landlords responsible for enforcing building codes and reminding their residents of their actions' effect on the neighbors and community.
The city council will vote on proposals in the next month that will limit the number of unrelated adults living in a house, restrict parking on the street and enact a three strikes system, previously implemented at Gustavus College. City and school administrators hope this will help to curb partying and noise.
The "three strikes" would consist of a warning about the laws against noise and other violations, a second warning that the next action will result in a loss of rental license, and the loss of the landlord's rental license. This, Kneser said, gives landlords economic incentives to enforce responsible behavior in their tenants. If passed, this would be enacted in the next year.
"That really tightens things up on landlords to run orderly places," Kneser said.
Kneser said that really only five or six houses are problematic, and the locations of those houses changes every year.
St. Olaf's policies towards those caught have not changed, according to Kneser. All students cited in the community may face sanctions by the college, depending on the issue and severity of the situation.
Generally, St. Olaf will issue a five-day co-curricular suspension to students cited.
As for the beginning of this year, Kneser reports that no one has been cited in the community for noise violations or inappropriate alcohol use, while in years past he has always had one or two violations in the first two weekends.
Both Kneser and Smith stress that students living off campus should use their common sense.
"If you're not being stupid, there shouldn't be a problem," Smith said.
"It seems fair," said off-campus resident Trevor Davies '07. "You just have to be smart."