Spring Break, Beer Riots and Halloween: Policing Temporary Populations of College Kids

Matthew Thomas, California State University - Chico
Rick Ruddell, California State University, Chico
Lori-Beth Way, California State University - Chico

A numnber of college towns and resort communities throughout the United States regularly confront potential riots as large crowds of college-age participants gather to celbrate holidays, spring breaks, or the outcomes of sporting events. These spontaneous or recurring events are troubling to police departments and civic governments becaue theya re perceived as having many costs, but offer few benefits. In order to better understand police responses to these temporary communities, we contacted police departments throughout the United States to determine the different strategies that these agencies used to respond to groups -- sometimes in excess of 50,000 college-aged participants. Our findings suggest that each department confronts these events using strategies that are distinctively "homegrown." Despite divergent approaches, however, most police departments emphasize the importance of partnerships forged between civic government, police departments, universities, the media, local businesses, and community groups. Some of the Departments also emphasized the importance of 'breakiong the chain' or 'breaking the institutional memory' of these events. It is important to change the participants' perceptions about these events -- especially in cities that had previously experienced police-student clashes or riots.

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Updated 05/20/2006