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Cops bust Star Ranch party, take 57 to jail

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
A Tucson Police officer writes a citation for underage drinking early Saturday morning at the Jefferson at Star Ranch apartment complex. Saturday's operation resulted in 125 arrests for underage drinking.
By Ty Young
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Tucson law-enforcement agencies made good on a promise to fight under-aged drinking and alcohol-related violence by breaking up a west-side apartment party Friday night.

When it was over, 125 minors were arrested, 57 of them sent to jail, after police surrounded and confined partyers in a courtyard at the Jefferson at Star Ranch apartments, 41 S. Shannon Rd., just west of the Pima Community College's west campus. Many of those arrested were UA students.

Lt. Mike Pryor of the Tucson Police Department, leader of Friday's operation, estimated that when police arrived, there were 300 to 400 people in the courtyard where the party was held.

Along with the 50 TPD officers, there were officers from UAPD and Department of Public Safety. Arizona Department of Corrections provided two 50-person inmate transportation buses, both of which were used to transport offenders to Pima County Jail.

At the scene, those youths suspected of drinking were sent to a long table where officers handled breathalyzer tests, fingerprints, mug shots and various legal paperwork. Once arrested, people were led in handcuffs onto the transportation busses and sent to the Pima County Jail. Upon arrival, those arrested were arraigned by a magistrate called in at 2 a.m. to handle the mass bookings. The entire production had many people questioning the bust.

"There was no reason for this," said Brent Vander Werf, a 19-year-old architecture sophomore who had friends who were arrested. "There were no violent crimes being committed here. They should wait until after the party and respond to calls of violent activity."

Alcohol-related violence was the main reasoning behind the increase in vigilance to find minors violating liquor laws. Pryor said both the community and the university had been calling on police to stop post-party vandalism and violence.

"I hope we stopped somebody from driving drunk and killing somebody, or stopped a woman from getting raped or somebody from getting beaten up," he said.

The raucous crowd filled up quickly, and by 11 p.m., there was very little room to move, said finance junior Eric Gonzales. Once police arrived around midnight, there was little anybody could do to escape.

"It was down to elbow room in there, wall to wall people," he said. "Once the cops showed up, people were dropping like flies."

Following a crowd-control technique designed in part by Pryor, police surrounded the scene, rounding up people fleeing the party. Officers had everybody sit down and later assembled partyers into three groups: those over 21 years old, those between 18 and 20 years old, and those under 18 years old. There were seven minors found at the party, two of whom were sitting next to kegs of beer in one of the apartments, Pryor said. According to both residents and the police, Jefferson at Star Ranch has been a haven for parties like this.

"This has been going on here for three years," said Matt Bassin, a 21-year-old journalism senior. "College kids live here and they have parties."

Pryor said that parties at Jefferson at Star Ranch have prompted many calls in the past, even though it is not near the UA campus.

"Even though this is a different neighborhood, it's still a neighborhood and they deserve the same rights as everybody else," he said. "This complex caters to college


A representative of Jefferson at Star Ranch said that management would not comment regarding Friday night's incident or other parties that have gone on in the past.

More to come

The bust is the first of its kind this school year, but will not be the last, Pryor said.

"We're going to look at all venues where underage drinking occurs," he said. Other targets include local bars, liquor stores and convenience stores.

While the Jefferson at Star Ranch party turned out to be the main focus of the operation, TPD reported that there were 35 people arrested on minor in possession charges at other venues throughout the night. The force also arrested two people for felony DUI, two people for misdemeanor DUI and two people for juvenile DUI.

Police will also be on the lookout for fake identifications. On Friday night, there were six people arrested for false identification charges.

Earlier that night, TPD investigated the door log of a college-area bar and found that 90 percent of those logged in were fake. Before the raid, Pryor prepared officers for fake identification.

"When somebody gives (the police) an ID, there is a good chance that either it is fake or that they have a fake ID in their possession," he said.

TPD Capt. John Leavitt, midtown division commander, said that the public is responsible for the increased police scrutiny of college parties and under-aged drinking. He said some students have questioned the activities surrounding the campus.

"The reason why we're doing this now is because the community is telling us that this is what they want us to be doing," he said. "Even other students who really don't understand why they work very hard and they get the same degree that a guy (gets) who goes out and parties and drinks four nights a week. They're frustrated."

The bust was intended to send a message, but it remains to be seen if it will cause a decrease in youth drinking in Tucson. It will take more efforts like Friday night's bust to accurately gauge the effect on the community, Pryor said.

"We won't know for sure until we have a chance to step back and see how many parties we're dealing with," he said.

Some students believe that busts like this can be a deterrent to unruly drinkers, but they still find displeasure with the way that police conducted the operation. Bassin said that he has seen many parties broken up, but never in the fashion he witnessed on Friday night.

"I think if they kept doing this it would stop these parties from happening," he said. "It seems like an abuse of power. This (police bust) is a little ridiculous.

There is no end in sight for similar police activity, Pryor said. With the number of alcohol-related crimes on the rise, along with continued complaints of the community, the police will continue to do everything possible to quell youth drinking.

"The community has told us that this what they want," he said. "Hopefully we'll come out (on a patrol) and find nothing here. That's when we'll know that we've succeeded."

This is the second raid, of this fashion, by Tucson law enforcement agencies. A bust in May netted 74 people in jail at a UA-area party attended by 100 to 150 people. There were 25 fake IDs confiscated as well.

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