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Amherst police ready if parties erupt this weekend

Police Chief Scott Livingstone said Friday his department received reliable information earlier in the week that people interested in holding a massive party may be trying to catch police off-guard.

While any spring weekends can have disturbances, Amherst and University of Massachusetts police have emphasized enforcement on weekends closer to the end of April, when weather is often warmer and the Hobart Hoedown used to occur. Those weekends will have the departments assisted by a state police community action team.

But Livingstone said officers will be ready for incidents this weekend, should something happen. “We’ve already planned to gear up for the weekend. We will have officers monitoring hot spots,” Livingstone said.

One of these hot spots will be Townehouse Apartments, the site of the March 9 Blarney Blowout weekend incidents. He expects officers to begin patrolling at the complex early Saturday. Officers Wednesday and Thursday went door-to-door on Phillips Street, Allen Street, Nutting Avenue and Hobart Lane, speaking to college students about the expectations for the weekend and reminding them about the town’s noise, nuisance house and keg bylaws.

“We were reminding residents that any large parties will be handled quickly and arrests will be made,” Livingstone said.

Livingstone said he has met with landlords and other property management companies to strategize about how to keep parties from growing in size.

On Thursday he attended a session at the UMass police station in which administrators and town officials met with 10 landlords to discuss how to deal with disruptions. During the session, UMass reiterated its support for calming problems off campus, including efforts to inform students and parents that incidents off campus will be disciplined through the student code of conduct.

UMass Police Chief John Horvath said he supports these efforts and has committed two officers who will be joining Amherst officers every Friday and Saturday night on joint patrols. “The general goal is to get out in front of things before they get out of hand,” Horvath said.

In addition, the departments will have a tactical team ready to move swiftly into an area of a large party.

Private security will also play a role at apartment complexes.

“We have good rapport with their security. They keep us informed and apprised,” Livingstone said. Puffton Village, for instance, will be investing more than $80,000 in additional staff.

“That’s one of the complexes where we have the fewest problems. That extra security is welcomed,” Livingstone said.

While security workers don’t have the power to arrest, their presence can assist police in preventing and quelling disturbances.

In addition, Livingstone said he expects Fearing Street residents will again be investing in private security, as they did in the fall, to locate and report any problems not observed by patrol officers.

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