With a little more than two months left in the year, MU Police have nearly doubled the number of arrests for driving while intoxicated compared with 2002.
But rather than indicating more alcohol use and abuse on campus, police and university officials say the increase reflects greater law enforcement efforts.
Capt. Brian Weimer of MU Police said the increase in arrests is “absolutely not” due to a failure in the university’s various alcohol responsibility programs, but rather the result of better training and increased enforcement.
Officers have undergone a lot of training both in the department and at DWI training schools, Weimer said, where the emphasis is on identifying individuals with lower levels of intoxication.
“One of our duties is reinforcing the negative repercussions from drinking and driving,” Weimer said. “We have a lot of younger officers who are hard working and doing an exceptional job.”
Campus police are also working with the Wellness Resource Center’s Alcohol, Drug Abuse Prevention Team and with Residential Life’s programs on alcohol responsibility.
Mark Lucas, interim director of MU’s Department of Student Life, said increased enforcement is the “fairly easy explanation” for why arrests are increasing, even while national studies are showing that fewer students are drinking and driving. But he also credited the combined efforts of the police and Student Life for improving the overall quality of life on campus.
Lucas said that without increased law enforcement and Student Life programs such as the Student Court, it would be “only a matter of time before someone is killed.”
Students arrested on suspicion of DWI must go before MU’s Student Court, a process that the court’s chief justice, Natalee Binkholder, described as an “informal discussion.”
“We ask the person what had been going on that caused them to drink and drive,” Binkholder said. “There are usually extenuating circumstances.”
Students are then usually placed on disciplinary probation, assigned community service and required to attend a workshop about drinking. The workshop is sponsored by the Wellness Resource Center.
Binkholder said that while many students complain about the Student Court, “as a member of the Mizzou community, they agreed to the university’s student code,” which prohibits alcohol use on campus.
Lucas said the court is less a form of punishment and more an educational opportunity. He predicted that DWI arrests on campus will continue to rise, then level off as the effects of efforts by both police and campus groups set in.
“If we don’t see a decrease in the next few years, we need to re-evaluate our programs,” he said.