After Sibs Weekend, the start of Fest Season is right around the corner which draws Ohio University students and other party-goers to popular streets such as Mill Street and Palmer Street.
The Athens and Ohio University Police Departments want to emphasize that their focus for big weekends is not catching underage drinkers, but rather making sure the big crowds uptown and in bars stay safe.
“You'll see a lot more control and more from both (OUPD) and the city police,” OUPD Staff Lieutenant Tim Ryan said. "We’re much more visible on the streets in and around those areas where we know there's going to be a lot of party people.”
APD Chief of Police Nick Magruder said during OU family weekends, the police department will only add some extra officers to facilitate. However, for fests, everyone in the department who is available will be on duty. He said outside departments, including OUPD, the Athens County Sheriff’s Office and police patrol on horseback, will come and help the APD.
“The biggest thing is visibility in (certain) areas and also in the uptown area building up to these weekends,” Magruder said. “Just give us visibility, let them know that we're not going to tolerate out-of-control behavior and that we make sure people are safe too.”
However, Magruder said in recent years, the number of arrests made during these popular weekends calmed down.
“We haven't had the major issues we've had in the past, but even with spring fests, if we make a handful of arrests during the actual event, that's pretty consistent now, which is good,” Magruder said.
Magruder said the focus of fest weekends is not catching underage people drinking in a bar or at a house party but the totality of the events and crowd behavior.
“The purpose isn't to go grab a bunch of underage people out of the bar, but it does happen,” Magruder said. “Our biggest thing is that a lot of the time, we have a fight or an assault or something major that happens inside the bar. Almost, I would say 80% of the time, it's going to be someone under the age of 21.”
Housing and Residence Life also prepares for the mass amount of visitors and guests in residence halls. Director of Residence Life Operations Jen Maskiell said the same guest rules in residence halls during Halloween are not applied during Fest Season, but staffing is increased to prepare for the possibility of increased guests in the halls.
She said additional measures will be taken to accommodate during these weekends, including increased on-duty RAs and RAs completing additional rounds in residence halls.
“Staff will follow their policies and procedures accordingly,” Maskiell wrote in an email. “RAs are responsible for documenting situations that involve underage drinking. If additional support is needed, they call the Resident Director on duty or OUPD.”
Magruder said APD ensures people who need to be charged and arrested will, and while they will hand out warnings, there are a significant amount of arrests issued during these popular weekends.
"We have to maintain control some way,” he said.