As of 2015, the UCI Police Department’s (UCIPD) rates of liquor law disciplinary referrals are the second-highest in the UC system, behind only UC San Diego. The total number of drug and alcohol-related offenses pursued by the UCIPD has also risen steadily since 2013, according to most recent department records, and remains exponentially higher than any other crime reported on campus. Despite high numbers of referrals, however, UCIPD made only 25 liquor law arrests in 2014, the fifth highest among the nine UC schools, reflecting recent efforts to discipline and educate drug and alcohol-related offenders rather than incarcerate them.
UCIPD says that UCI’s high statistics are not necessarily a reflection of disproportionate substance abuse on campus, but rather a reflection of the campus’s meticulous crime documentation, as well as a commitment to a UCIPD program implemented in 2010, the Safe Onto Sober program, which encourages disciplinary referrals of intoxicated students to alcohol education programs, in lieu of arrests.
The Clery Act, a federal statute requiring publicly-funded universities to disclose annual crime statistics, defines liquor law violations as “unlawful possession, use, sale, or purchase of alcoholic beverages as well as…furnishing alcohol to a minor (under 21 years), and attempts to commit any of the above.”
Similarly, drug law violations encompass the same restrictions on illegal narcotics, including “use of the equipment or devices utilized in their preparation and/or use.”
According to UC’s 2015 Clery Report, UCIPD made more arrests for drug and liquor law violations in 2014 than for any other crime – 41 drug arrests and 25 liquor arrests in total.
UCIPD referred 552 liquor law violations for disciplinary action in 2014 — more than twice as many offenses as every other crime at UCI combined that year. The only UC to surpass UCI in liquor law discipline is UC San Diego, with 1,879 referrals reported in 2014. UC Santa Barbara ranked just behind UCI, with 487 referrals.
According to UCIPD Patrol Lieutenant Anthony Frisbee, officers can decide case-by-case whether to arrest or issue a citation to intoxicated individuals on campus. He says that many officers choose to “guide students towards educational resources” rather than arresting them, accounting for UCI’s high number of disciplinary referrals.
“[UCI Police Department] works hard to direct students towards administrative resources and counseling instead of issuing more arrests,” said Frisbee. “We refer a lot of students found intoxicated to Student Conduct, so they can enroll in educational programs and counseling designed to curb repeat offenses.”
He says that the most common citations are issued to students found intoxicated in public, or under legal drinking age. Often, he says, UCIPD will forego issuing criminal citations or arrests to these students, and will instead take them to a “sobering tank” at the Newport Beach Police Department, followed by administrative citations referring them to the Student Wellness and Health Center for a series of “educational” classes as part of the Safe Onto Sober program.
“We try to educate more than arrest, when it comes to students,” said Frisbee. “Our statistics might be higher [than other UCs] because we take educational referrals very seriously – and also because we have a really comprehensive Clery program.”
Frisbee notes that UCI’s Clery coordinator compiles disciplinary referrals from five other campus departments besides the UCIPD — UCI housing, ACC housing, Student Conduct, athletics and human resources — resulting in possibly inflated statistics compared to other UC campuses.
UCI’s higher rate of commuters than other UCs could also account for a portion of liquor-related offenses. In 2014, the UCIPD reported 108 driving under the influence (DUI) offenses — a 350 percent increase from the previous year. DUIs at UC Irvine accounted for more than a quarter of total DUIs reported across the entire UC system. In the same period, total liquor law violations at UCI rose 165 percent.
Lieutenant Frisbee admits that UCI’s rates of drug and alcohol offenses are significant, but notes that the statistics also reflect UCIPD efforts to ensure that offending students are properly referred and educated on substance abuse.
“Drug and alcohol abuse is still a serious problem on campus, but we’re doing everything we can to make sure students are safe and well-educated about it,” said Frisbee. “That’s the priority.”