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Amherst police keep the peace during weekend, beginning busy spring stretch

Lt. Ronald Young, head of the Amherst police detective bureau, said officers were stationed at the entrance to Hobart Lane to prevent problems from developing on the street notorious for wild partying when, at 5:39 p.m., Raymond F. Racine III, 22, of Leominster, attempted to drive his vehicle onto the street from North Pleasant Street. After being stopped and told to turn around, he instead lurched the vehicle forward, hitting an officer, who was not injured, Young said.

Racine was arrested on charges of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (motor vehicle) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle to endanger.

Amherst and University of Massachusetts police worked together to step up enforcement during the weekend after receiving information that some students might try to hold a large gathering similar to the March 9 pre-spring break riot at Townehouse Apartments.

Police Chief Scott Livingstone said the information appeared to have been accurate. “They were going to try and have a big bash,” he said.

By 12:45 p.m. Saturday, police discovered around 100 college-age people gathered on Hobart Lane. They were dispersed, and many moved to Meadow Street. By 1 p.m., police were monitoring a group in excess of 400 people.

Livingstone said several students held smaller parties in North Amherst and police had no problems with these gatherings because they did not escalate or disrupt nearby residents.

“They did a good job of controlling themselves,” Livingstone said.

In fact, only one person was taken into custody for violating the town’s noise and nuisance house bylaws. Reed Fox, 19, of 50 Meadow St., unit 92, was arrested Saturday at 1:17 a.m. after loud music was playing and 40 to 50 people were gathered at his Townehouse apartment, Young said.

A 22-year-old East Hanover, N.J. woman was issued a $300 noise ticket after police responded to 62 Gray St. Saturday at 5:58 p.m., where 75 partygoers, some on the roof, were being loud, Young said.

Some of the party problems were pushed into Hadley. Saturday at 3:31 p.m., police were notified by management at Hadley at Elaine Care and Rehabilitation Center on North Maple Street that people attending a party at a nearby home were parking in the lot. At 3:48 p.m., the people holding the party requested assistance in sending some of the more than 200 people home. UMass officers responded.

While Livingstone said Amherst and UMass police successfully thwarted any problems in Amherst this weekend, it began a monthlong stretch where most officers will have to work extended hours every weekend.

“It’s a stressful and trying time for our department,” Livingstone said. “I always have concerns about burnout and fatigue when it comes to decision making.”

As university enrollment continues to expand and more students live off campus, Livingstone said, he will eventually need more officers to handle the workload.

“Our department’s going to have to grow,” Livingstone said.

So far, he said he’s been managing using with sector-based patrolling, in which officers are assigned to specific neighborhoods. But officers still need to be first on scene for medical calls and have other non-party related incidents to deal with, such as break-ins, thefts and car accidents, he said.

The extra work hours are being funded through a combination of overtime and a $10,000 alcohol enforcement grant from the state, Livingstone said.

That was put to some use this weekend, with at least 27 people arrested or summoned to court on charges of being minors in possession of alcohol, with eight open container violations and two people arrested on charges of selling or delivering alcohol to minors. Young said compliance checks were done at package stores.

Police also warned residents at Brandywine and Presidential apartments and on Summer Street and Montague Road after the department got noise complaints.

Meanwhile, Amherst Fire Department ambulances transported seven intoxicated patients to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton during the weekend, with four from UMass, one from Amherst College, one from Hampshire College and one from another town location.

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