State money to fight binge drinking, giant parties in Oakland
By Margaret Harding
Published: Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, 5:06 p.m.
The state is giving $70,000 to help curb huge parties and binge drinking in Oakland, which one resident described as a neighborhood “under siege.”
Large, off-campus parties have plagued Oakland neighborhoods in recent years, said Geof Becker, 53, an Oakland resident and co-chairman of volunteer neighborhood group Oakwatch. He described the neighborhood as “under siege” by house parties with hundreds of drunken attendees. Both University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University are in Oakland.
“Anyone who has lived in Oakland has seen an incredible explosion,” Becker said. “Unless you see it, it's hard to understand how disruptive and violent and painful these parties have become for neighbors.”
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board awarded a $30,000 grant to CMU and a $40,000 grant to the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation as part of its alcohol education grant program. CMU police Sgt. Jason Hendershot said 40 percent of the funds will go to education, 40 percent to enforcement and the remaining 20 percent will be used for police training. Hendershot said there were about 140 incidents in a three-year period involving alcohol in which medical attention was necessary.
“The overall goal is a reduction in these dangerous drinking incidents,” Hendershot said.
Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, announced the grants on Monday.
“What we've identified is a minority of students who abuse their privileges in the community,” Frankel said. “The vast majority of students are an asset to our community.”
The Oakland Planning and Development Corporation will use its grant to pay off-duty city police officers to patrol the neighborhoods some weekends and have a staffer collect data on problem properties, executive director Wanda Wilson said.
“It's the large parties,” Wilson said. “We're not saying people can't have a good time with friends and a few beers. That's not what we're targeting.”
So far this year, Pittsburgh police have arrested six people and issued eight citations for underage drinking in Oakland, according to figures provided by police spokeswoman Diane Richard. In 2012, police arrested 14 people and cited five.
Zone 4 Cmdr. Kathryn Degler, whose district includes Oakland, did not return a message seeking comment.
Pitt reported 156 arrests for on-campus liquor law violations in 2012 in its annual security report. That figure was 157 in 2011 and 169 in 2010.
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or email@example.com.
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