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Business as usual: While some students believe police are cracking down on parties, numbers show a consistent trend

In recent weeks, the campus has been in an uproar over an alleged crackdown on parties at Syracuse University.

Students believe that because police officers are focused on shutting down parties, it’s taking away from resources for protecting students. But statistics and interviews with the Department of Public Safety and the city police are telling a different story.

It started with Castle Court’s party ban, which prompted a video titled “#SaveCuse,” with more than 65,000 views. The video was produced by “I’m Shmacked,” a brand that tours campuses nationwide to showcase their party culture. In the video a student blamed the crackdown on Chancellor Kent Syverud.

“Chancellor Kent is sending out emails because we got the No. 1 party school ranking and he’s shutting down parties,” the student said.

On SaveCuse’s website, it describes the university as a “police state,” and writes that this approach is “ruining the school and endangering students.”

In fact, campus police has never met with the chancellor’s office to discuss shutting down parties, DPS Chief Tony Callisto said.

“The actual level of enforcement, while the students think the hammer’s down, it’s no more than it’s ever been,” he said.

Callisto added that the amount of arrests have followed a steady trend, with this semester being no different.

In the last five years, the average amount of cases for the first two weeks of the semester was 9.8, according to numbers from the Neighborhood Safety Patrol. For the first two weeks of 2014’s fall semester, the average is 11 cases.

During the first two weeks of the fall semester, there were 31 alcohol-related cases, four drug-related cases and seven party-related cases, according to DPS’s crime logs.

Here are the numbers to compare from recent years:

2013: 33 alcohol-related cases, three drug-related cases and five party-related cases

2012: 28 alcohol-related cases, two drug-related cases and 13 party-related cases

2011: 30 alcohol-related cases, four drug-related cases and six party-related cases

2010: 35 alcohol-related cases, two drug-related cases and six party-related cases

Both DPS and Syracuse Police Department have denied any change of focus to crackdown on parties, with student safety still the No. 1 priority.

Callisto said both the amount of officers dedicated to busting parties and the ones preventing violent crimes have remained the same.

The Neighborhood Safety Patrol, a unit focused on addressing quality of life issues such as open container violations and noise complaints created in the early 2000s, has about five city officers and three DPS officers on duty. That amount hasn’t increased in several years.

“We’ve had details up near campus on the weekends for several years, it’s not a new program,” SPD’s Sgt. Tom Connellan said.

The University Area Crime-Control Team, a unit created in 2012 to prevent violent crimes such as robberies and assaults, has about six city officers and six DPS officers on duty for each area, patrolling around the East neighborhood and Marshall Street. That amount also remains the same.

An incident during Labor Day weekend has further added to the discussion that students are at risk because parties are being shut down.

Mike Scinto, a senior information management and technology major, said he was assaulted on his porch on the 500 block of Euclid Avenue on Aug. 31, at about 2:30 a.m. Both him and his roommate suffered several bruises after a group of seven men attacked them, he recalled.

Mike Barta, another roommate, ran down to Sumner and Ackerman avenues to flag down help from DPS and SPD officers, but said he couldn’t find any. He headed those directions because he had seen several officers stationed on those blocks a few hours prior and also in previous semesters. They did not call 911 or report the assault to police.

“With the way everything is now, they were just sent out to go bust parties, and so they were just not around when we needed them, like they normally were,” Barta, a senior communications and rhetorical studies major, said.

DPS chief Callisto said an officer’s response time depended on what the call volumes were around 2:30 a.m., when Scinto was attacked.

Around that time, officers were shutting down a party at 517 Broad Street at about 2:10 a.m., and also ticketing a student for alcohol-related violations on 120 Lambreth Lane at about 2:20 a.m., according to DPS’s crime logs.

Callisto said that while the incident was unfortunate and should not have happened, it was not because of a change in protocol from DPS to bust parties.

“As much as you see DPS around every corner every five minutes when you’re out at night, as soon as that five minutes is up and the officers move on to another corner, sometimes that’s when some of those things happen,” he said.

He stressed that public safety is still the No. 1 priority for DPS, and that students should always report crimes as soon as possible.

After the attack, Scinto said he’s begun to feel less safe in his neighborhood.

“The way the past few weekends have been going, it just feels like something’s changed,” he said. ”Last year, it’s always felt safe, and something like this happens last weekend, and it makes me question, what the heck’s changed?”

But according to DPS, it’s still business as usual.

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