Monday, November 19, 2012

Special law enforcement officers crack down on rowdy Rowan University students

GLASSBORO NJ Nov 19 2012 — The streets of Glassboro will not be overrun with disorderly college students reenacting scenes from “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”
Not if recently-assigned special police officers can help it, that is.

As a direct result of complaints from borough residents about the apparent reckless behavior from those matriculating at Rowan University, the borough recently joined forces with the institution to launch special police patrols on the weekends to play the role of big brother.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, about eight part-time SLEO II officers have been conducting patrols on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, in car and on foot, around areas where college students tend to flock.

According to Glassboro’s Chief Alex Fanfarillo, their SLEO II officers — short for Special Law Enforcement Officer Class II — are well-trained, meticulous and qualified, but they also serve as borough ambassadors when they’re among students.

The special officers have been dispersed throughout the neighborhoods based on problem locations where complaints have come and from DEDATS, authorities said — data driven approaches to crime and traffic safety.

On a recent Thursday night — party night in a commuter-college town — South Jersey Times rode along with SLEO II Sergeant John Polillo on one of his routine 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. patrols.

In addition to large packs of students walking streetside from point A to point B, Polillo said most of the trouble he encounters on a regular basis comes from intoxicated or noisy pedestrians along with open-container violations, public urination on private property and, oddly enough, trash receptacles that are continuously kicked over.

Mostly, the older teenagers and 20-somethings seen on that particular night were doing what college students are known to do — hanging out.

After midnight, Polillo said, “I’m going to have to say the complaints that come in are namely geared towards noise. This late at night, it’s very quiet otherwise.”

And, “Most of the complaints are legitimate,” he added, “but most of the problems have been cut down.”

Among the primary concerns acknowledged by the officers are groups of students spread out beyond campus grounds into residential areas, where many of them rent off-campus housing.

But, “Students who just cut across traffic without waiting for a light pose an issue, especially with some of these cars coming at a high rate of speed,” Polillo said, observing a group of young women scamper across an intersection.

“Another big thing is the packs of students walking,” Polillo said. “Sometimes, someone’s giving them a problem, but it just looks like students talking when you drive by.

“Who knows if they’re actually getting robbed?” the officer wondered, referring to some reports of students being harassed or robbed on borough streets.

According to Polillo, who was communicating from his vehicle with officers on foot patrol, being able to walk the streets when students are present gives the special officers a huge advantage — the ability to spot a problem that might not be apparent from a moving police car.

As the core party hours approached, however, it was a student who flagged Polillo down, claiming she had just left a house where she believed there was underage drinking and it made her feel “uncomfortable.”

Polillo called for assistance and parked outside of a North Main Street residence, where there was indeed some activity going on.

As the party was broken up — with open containers spotted, a cloud of marijuana smoke manifested, and one unlucky party guest arrested after police discovered a warrant out for him — students and assorted young people were sent packing.

Polillo said the officers do their best to issue the proper citations, maintain the quality of life in these neighborhoods and look out for the safety of students carrying on in their own way.

“Generally what will happen is, if we go to a house party and it looks like a big issue, we’ll find the tenants and the people on the lease and we’ll card everyone in there,” Polillo said. “Juveniles, however, come with us immediately. And sometimes, they’re not even from this town.”

Breaking up a student party is “the equivalent to herding cattle,” he added, because the kids usually just mosey over to the next gathering.

Polillo said, however, that his job isn’t about spoiling some kids’ fun.

It’s about keeping everyone in the borough, neighborhood residents and students alike, as safe and content as possible.

On the neighbors’ end, Polillo observed, “Residents sometimes say, ‘I’ll deal with it because I live next to it.’

“But they shouldn’t have to.”

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