Police Lt. introduced, alcohol-free events proposed at Coalition

By Stephen Greenwell
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2005

11/16/05 - About 75 students and residents attended the University of Rhode Island-Narragansett Coalition last night at Narragansett Town Hall to discuss positive steps being taken by the organization.

Fran Cohen, URI dean of students, said she has been encouraged by the response the university's Common Ground campaign has received. Cohen is also the director of Common Ground.

"We did a recognition ceremony earlier this semester to offer our thanks for the various bars and liquor stores that participated in this agreement," she said. "We are lucky in our community to have businesses who already abide by these principles."

At the meeting, Cohen recognized Basil's and Arturo Joe's as two businesses that had joined the Common Ground campaign. Representatives from both restaurants were present to sign an agreement to join.

By joining the campaign, both businesses pledged to have their employees attend ID check training held by the Narragansett Police Department and to practice responsible alcohol serving.

Cohen also said she recently answered a call from a Providence resident about the URI coalition. Cohen said the woman wanted to start a similar program with Brown University.

"She was blown away by all the info I had for her," Cohen said. "It was like a dream come true for her and something for her to model her activities on."

Narragansett Police Chief J. David Smith said inquiries like these were great support for the coalition.

"I just want to acknowledge that this validates the success of this program," he said. "If any college community wants a model of success, they should just take a snapshot of tonight."

Carol Stuart, a member of the Common Ground subcommittee and the Eastward Look Neighborhood Association, agreed.

"Through close association with the realtors, residents, tavern owners and students, we can break down barriers," she said.

Nancy Devaney, chair of the Common Ground subcommittee, said she had also received positive feedback about the program from local businesses.

"All three liquor stores are looking for another go around with community police officers and the in-depth ID checking they do," she said.

Devaney addressed concerns South Kingstown was not doing their part to curb underage drinking.

"Geez, Narragansett is doing such a good job with their enforcement, what about South Kingstown?" she said, giving an example of a question she commonly receives. Answering it, Devaney said, "There is money through a state senate grant, and extra enforcement is done through South Kingstown Police."

Smith said he was also proud of the increased student participation for this year's coalition.

"One of the things we had targeted as an attainable goal this year was increased student participation," he said. "I also can't help but notice that we have tavern owners here tonight."

Cooperation between different groups was a key to the organization's success, Smith said. "This is the only way we're going to get to the root cause of some of these problems and solve them," he said.

In other business, Smith introduced retired Cranston police chief Michael Chalek to the coalition. Chalek will be working as a lieutenant on the evening shift for the URI Police Department.

Smith said Chalek has an outstanding reputation in the state for his years as an officer. "When you talk about Mike Chalek in circles around the state, you hear the respect he is held in," Smith said.

For the second meeting in a row, Smith had Lauren Fink, URI student and member of the communications subcommittee, read its report as a way of showing the unity between residents and students.

Fink said their subcommittee focused on getting word of coalition meetings and the work done at them out to the student body.

"We found that these table tents [in dining halls] have been the most effective way to communicate to students and for them to recognize us," she said. "We also talked about putting posters up on campus because there is a population of students who never eat in dining halls."

Smith said they would also like to explore the viability of distributing the table tents in the URI Emporium.

"It would be an opportunity for whoever distributes these to have a talk with the business owners about the good work we're doing here for the community," he said.

Fink also mentioned placing advertisements and suggesting stories to local papers, such as the Cigar and the South County Independent, could increase the visibility of the coalition.

"We discussed doing profiles of both Smith and [Vice President of Academic Affairs Thomas] Dougan to put into the newspapers to put a face on the committee," Fink said. "We also talked about doing a profile of a good house and a bad house, and we would show how they both have an impact on the community."

Devaney said most of her committee agenda concerned parking issues in Narragansett, specifically parking on lawns and streets.

"Landlords should be responsible for providing adequate parking, and it is something that sbould be revisited," Devaney said.

She added that like residents, students raised concerns about being forced to park on lawns. "There are many students who agree with the residents," she said.

Devaney said her committee suggested approaching bars about sponsoring some alcohol-free events for students, such as some of the dancing and charity events currently run at off-campus venues by URI fraternities and sororities

"We were discussing that maybe that would be something good to do during winter months," she said. "Some of the bars could have an alcohol-free night with a DJ or a band."

Devaney also requested a member with a legal perspective for the steering committee. This committee oversees the subcommittees and provides direction for the entire coalition.

"We have a police presence but nothing from the judicial branch," she said. "It's an area in the whole chain of command that's missing."