Amherst Police sponsor street festival to bond with students

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) campus

Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2016 11:15:42 AM

AMHERST – Interactions between college students and police officers often come late at night, after residents have called for assistance in dealing with rowdy behavior and other issues affecting their quality of life.

To change this dynamic and build better relationships between law enforcement and students, and at the same time reduce the impacts of alcohol-related events on residential neighborhoods, Amherst Police are sponsoring the first Fearing Street Festival Sunday afternoon.

The event from 1 to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the Creamery Building, 150 Fearing St., will feature a bungee run, jousting inflatables, a large screen set up to broadcast the New England Patriots football game against the Buffalo Bills, and free food, including pizza and doughnuts.

Amherst Police Lt. William Menard said the idea behind the festival is for police to establish bonds with students, especially freshmen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst as they begin venturing off campus.

“It’s a collaboration to develop a dialogue with younger students about what expectations are around campus,” Menard said.

Fearing Street has been a hot spot for problems,  in part because it is a main thoroughfare for the thousands of students who live in the Southwest towers to get to off-campus student rentals and the downtown bars, according to Menard.

The festival builds on Police Chief Scott Livingstone’s emphasis on community policing and sector-based patrols, which give officers the opportunity to better know the residents they are serving, Menard said.

Livingstone said the festival is part of the ongoing outreach by his department.

“Cops are looking forward to it as a means of reducing calls and having more discussions with students themselves,” Livingstone said.

William Laramee, the department’s community liaison office, said he hopes students will appreciate the chance to meet officers in a non-confrontational way.

Many students, Laramee said, are unaware of the proximity of the campus to residential neighborhoods, and may believe there is a buffer that does not really exist.

“If we can engage them now, it lets them know where they live,” Laramee said.

This effort supplements the UMass-created Walk This Way initiative that reminds students walking on Fearing Street to be respectful to the neighborhood, and follows a barbecue in March that attracted 400 students to interact with police officers and firefighters.  Menard said he hopes that even more students will come Sunday. 

Two of the participants in the festival are housed in the Creamery Building. Dunn & Phillips, P.C. has offered legal-rights seminars during which police officers and firefighters talk about their expectations, and Sunset Grill & Pizza is a new restaurant that will provide the pizza. Other food will be from the Baby Berk food truck and UMass Dining.

Theta Chi freaternity and UMass Police are among the sponsors.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.




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