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Partying students mix with police weekends in Amherst

  • A house party on Fearing Street in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    A house party on Fearing Street in Amherst Friday night.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Masses of students enjoy a slice from Antonio's Friday night in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Masses of students enjoy a slice from Antonio's Friday night in Amherst.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • The night did not end so well for one student, who was taken to the hospital in an ambulance Friday night on Fearing and North Pleasant Streets in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    The night did not end so well for one student, who was taken to the hospital in an ambulance Friday night on Fearing and North Pleasant Streets in Amherst.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Last week's Mystery Photo is of the Bank of America in Amherst.<br/>FILE PHOTO<br/>

    Last week's Mystery Photo is of the Bank of America in Amherst.
    FILE PHOTO
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • A house party on South Whitney Street in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    A house party on South Whitney Street in Amherst Friday night.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • A house party on Sunrise Avenue in Amherst Friday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    A house party on Sunrise Avenue in Amherst Friday.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • A male student is apprehended and searched by the police on Fearing Street Friday night in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    A male student is apprehended and searched by the police on Fearing Street Friday night in Amherst.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • A Student holds a Natural Light box with a whiskey bottle in it after a party was dispersed on Hobart Lane Friday night in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    A Student holds a Natural Light box with a whiskey bottle in it after a party was dispersed on Hobart Lane Friday night in Amherst.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Colin Horrigan, a UMass student, shares his thoughts about the dispersed party on Hobart Lane.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Colin Horrigan, a UMass student, shares his thoughts about the dispersed party on Hobart Lane.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • A UMass student is apprehended by the police for stealing a holiday wreath from a residence on Fearing Street Friday night in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    A UMass student is apprehended by the police for stealing a holiday wreath from a residence on Fearing Street Friday night in Amherst.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • A house party on Fearing Street in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Masses of students enjoy a slice from Antonio's Friday night in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • The night did not end so well for one student, who was taken to the hospital in an ambulance Friday night on Fearing and North Pleasant Streets in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Last week's Mystery Photo is of the Bank of America in Amherst.<br/>FILE PHOTO<br/>
  • A house party on South Whitney Street in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • A house party on Sunrise Avenue in Amherst Friday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • A male student is apprehended and searched by the police on Fearing Street Friday night in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • A Student holds a Natural Light box with a whiskey bottle in it after a party was dispersed on Hobart Lane Friday night in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Colin Horrigan, a UMass student, shares his thoughts about the dispersed party on Hobart Lane.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • A UMass student is apprehended by the police for stealing a holiday wreath from a residence on Fearing Street Friday night in Amherst.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

The police, too, began to appear in larger numbers. They stood by, watching, on North Pleasant Street, as the lines at Stackards and McMurphy’s grew longer. Cruisers rumbled up and down Lincoln Avenue and Fearing Street.

It was Friday night in Amherst.

Student partying is a perennial issue here. But this year, police and firefighters say the number of emergency responses related to student partying is up. Through the first three weeks of September, 67 arrests were made for underage drinking, excessive noise, driving while intoxicated and carrying open containers of alcohol, according to Amherst police. That compared to 52 such arrests last year. Meanwhile, 107 people were summoned to court on similar charges during that time period, up from 36 the previous year.

Violence against officers making arrests is also reported to have increased. Partygoers threw bottles at police who were breaking up a party of 400 people the weekend of Oct. 6. Two similar instances occurred the weekend before.

Observing the scene with Gazette photographer Josh Kuckens, I found a pack of young people walking down Main Street to South Whitney Street around 11 p.m. There we found the small cross-street filled with people, making it difficult to navigate our car.

We parked and got out. A small traffic jam was forming, as cars stopped and passengers emptied out. A line of young people stood in line by a back door of a two-story home. The steady beat of a bass could be hear thumping away inside. One young man passed with a beer in his hand, followed soon after by another.

A girl standing in the street pondered the scene for a moment with her friend.

“There is a cover,” she remarked, contemplating the entrance fee to the party.

“How much is it?” I interjected.

“Five dollars,” she replied.

I feigned disgust and moved on down the street to Sunrise Avenue, where another partying was forming on a porch. This gathering was quieter and I heard no music, only the happy sound of laughing.

Cellphone generation

We decided to move on and check Fearing Street, which, as one of the main avenues between downtown and Southwest, among the largest dormitories on the University of Massachusetts campus, has long been identified as a problem area.

We drove first down Lincoln Avenue, where all was quiet, and emerged on Fearing to find two police officers arresting a young man. He was sitting on the ground, his hands on his knees, as officers rummaged through a backpack. The crowds were growing now and large numbers of students were making their way up the street.

We moved with them. Downtown the night was in full swing. It was midnight. A large crowd packed into Antonio’s Pizza. The lines outside the bars stretched down the street.

It was around this time that the scanner began to crackle. Police were responding to a large disturbance on Hobart Lane. We headed toward North Amherst. The crowds thinned out as we reached the UMass campus. But they reappeared in greater force after we passed the rotary. Students massed along the roadway in greater numbers than we had previously seen. It’s hard to estimate how many they were. I was too focused on driving, for fear of hitting a student running out into the road.

We arrived at Hobart Lane to find a handful of police cruisers. An exodus of students was in process. They laughed and shouted to each other as they left, but there was nothing violent about their behavior.

I asked one young man what was happening. The police were breaking up the party, he said, adding wistfully, “I just hope I get in somewhere.”

I moved toward a house where three officers were talking to the presumed resident.

“What happened?” I asked a young guy who was watching the scene unfold.

“Same thing that happens every night,” he replied with a laugh.

A half-dozen police officers were gathered in a driveway nearby, talking. I asked to speak with their commanding officer and was introduced to Lt. Jerry Miller.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Cellphone generation,” Miller answered. “Twenty people get invited to a party and 200 show up.”

In truth, he estimated that 75 to 100 people had shown up. The police watched as the students continued to clear out in the direction of North Pleasant Street. Miller and his officers were moving on, too. He wished me a good night and said, “See you later.”

A check of the police log on Sunday showed that two 21-year-old males will be summoned to court on a “nuisance house” charge in relation to the incident. A third will be summoned for underage possession of alcohol.

Looking for a ride

Josh and I made our way back toward the car. A young man was standing by the vehicle. I asked him if such a scene was common at Hobart Lane.

“It’s pretty much like this most weekends,” the young man said, though he said he’d never seen the police there before. His told us his name was Collin Horgan. He was from Yarmouth. When we told him we were from the local newspaper, he asked if he could have his picture taken. Josh obliged.

Do these scenes get violent sometimes, I asked him. Horgan didn’t think so. Just students having fun? He nodded his head.

Josh and I got in the car and made our way back toward North Pleasant Street. It was now around 12:30 a.m. A huge crowd of students had gathered at the bus stop. Some stood out in the roadway, trying to wave down passing cars. One kid waved a $20 bill at us as we passed. A little way down the street, two officers were standing over a young man who was crouched down on one knee. We stopped the car and Josh got out to take a picture.

When the police were done talking to the young fellow, Josh asked him what had happened. He had been caught stealing a wreath, he told Josh. He was despondent and near tears.

The next call over the scanner came on Brandywine Lane. When we arrived we found one cruiser and a group of six to eight young people leaving. Otherwise it was quiet.

We returned downtown. The police presence was heavier now. I counted four police cruisers and two officers on the street in a span of a minute. An ambulance rushed by. It was around 1 a.m.

The scanner went quiet and we waited. A half-hour or so later an ambulance rushed by. We decided to follow. It stopped at the intersection of Fearing and Pleasant streets outside a fraternity house, where a young man was sitting on the ground.

A young man watching said he hadn’t seen what happened.

“Kid probably got tanked. Happens all the time,” he concluded, as the injured man was loaded into the ambulance.

We decided to check Puffton Village. It was quiet. We circled down Route 116 and back up to Fearing. The crowds were now returning. They spoke loudly as police cruisers passed up and down the street. Lincoln Avenue was quiet. The clock was now nearing 2 a.m. We decided to make one more check of South Whitney Street. Small groups of students were making their way up Main Street. South Whitney Street itself was quiet, a stray car pulling up to pick up a pair of people and moving off.

This night was a relatively quiet one by Amherst standards. The police log from Friday night and Saturday morning showed that 13 people will be summoned to court for underage possession of alcohol; one was arrested for the same charge; two will be summoned for a noise violation; two were arrested for the same charge; four will be summoned for open-container violations and three will be summoned for open container and underage possession charges. There were no reports of assaults against a police officer.

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