Seventeen Georgetown students were detained last weekend by in the latest in a series of arrests that some worry could be part of a larger crackdown by police.

In the last two weeks 44 people have been arrested within a four-block radius of the university, 24 which were Georgetown students.

According to Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Brett Clements (COL ’07), the students arrested last weekend are facing charges ranging from possession of an open container of alcohol to public urination.

One individual was arrested for possession of cocaine and another for simple assault but it is unknown if they were Georgetown students.

Although some students expressed concern that the recent arrests are part of crackdown targeting students, university and community officials insisted yesterday that the number of arrests has increased in Georgetown due to a larger police presence and is not part of a trend.

“I would not characterize these recent arrests as a `crackdown’ by MPD,” Director of Student Affairs Charles VanSant said. “The police are focusing on this neighborhood right now . Not all of these arrests are students, which indicates to me that MPD is not targeting students, but is apprehending those breaking the law.”

According to VanSant, the increased presence has come in the form of six additional MPD officers in the area from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The additional officers are in response to community complaints regarding noise and vandalism as well as an increase in crime, VanSant added.

Bill Starrels, an ANC commissioner, said that the increase in arrests resulted from too few police in Georgetown over the past few months.

“Now we are seeing the results of policing levels that were promised over the couple of years and were not taken care of until recently,” he said.

ANC Commissioner William Skelsey also said the police are not targeting students.

“I don’t think the MPD has been focusing on students, as evidenced by the

large number of non-students that have been fined,” he said. “I think the MPD is enforcing the law in an area that has seen chronic destructive and illegal activity for years now by a wide variety of people.”

Skelsey said students from other universities, non-students, and visitors to the city are among those arrested by MPD.

“It is important to not label this a student issue, but a crime issue,” he said.

Two Georgetown students who requested their names not be printed due to fear of university retribution, however, said the police appeared to be targeting students.

The two students, who were arrested on 35th street across from LXR in the early morning hours of last Saturday by plainclothes officers, said that they were specifically asked if they were students before being put under arrest and that the majority of the other people they were in jail with that night were either students or people from the area immediately surrounding campus.

“I am pretty sure they are targeting students,” one of the students said. “One of the first questions the arresting officer asked me was whether I was a student or not, even before he asked my age I think.”

That same student said, “I told one of the cops that I thought it was a little absurd to be arresting me for open container and he responded that he agreed but they were under a lot of pressure from the neighborhood to crack down.”

The other student shared the same sentiments.

“There is no question in my mind that the police are targeting Georgetown students,” he said. “The police officer admitted that there are more serious issues that they should be handling and seemed frustrated that the pressure was being put on their commander, by the residents of Georgetown to battle vandalism and noise violations.”

And while the frequency of arrests has students worried, the circumstances are also troublesome. According to one of the students who was arrested, he was never read his Miranda rights and was told by the police that he would have an arrest record that would be cleared automatically every six months – an incorrect statement.

MPD officials said Robert Contee, the commander of MPD’s Second District, which Georgetown is a part of, was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Clements said that the arrests were “getting way out of control.” In an email to Contee, he called the behavior of PD officers “grossly inappropriate” and said he cannot “support the overtly zealous effort by MPD to arrest as many students as possible who violate [possession of an open container of alcohol] laws, especially when the rights of these students are not upheld.”

Clements expressed a hope that the frequency and circumstances under which students are being arrested change before they “exacerbate the larger problem of town-gown relations.”

Starrels also hoped further MPD intervention would be unnecessary in the area.

“I would hope that the arrests that have taken place over the last couple of weeks has sent a clear message and will be a catalyst for change,” he said. “I would hope that the situation gets better and the quality of life – with the help of MPD and the University – again reaches a level everyone who resides in West Georgetown deserves.”

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