Kutztown Borough Police Chief Theodore R. Cole Jr. wants to send a clear message to under-age drinkers. The police are in town.On Thirsty Thursday, Sept. 11 at 1:15 a.m., Liquor Control Enforcement conducted a identification check on Shorty's Bar, issuing the establishment a noise violation.
Police officers from Kutztown, Berks-Lehigh and campus departments provided assistance.
The music was turned off and no one was allowed in or out. Several patrons shouted that police should solve crimes like murders, stabbings and rapes instead.
"You know where those murders, rapes and stabbings start? With alcohol," said Cole.
He hopes that by stopping the drinking, police can stop other problems often associated with alcohol, such as disruptive behavior, noise, vandalism and fighting.
Otherwise, for the most part, patrons left calmly, cooperating with officers.
"I think it's an effective tool to let the bar know that we're not ignoring them, and it also sends a message to the kids that we do check them," said Cole.
Kutztown Mayor Sandy Green stood in the parking lot with members of the Kutztown University and Borough of Kutztown watch.
"We have to crack down on underage drinking, not just in our town but in all college towns," said Green.
She has seen the dangers of excessive drinking first hand while walking through the borough 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with KUBoK, such as individuals passed out on the sidewalk.
"They lose control. It seems to be an excessive amount of drinking that goes on," said Green, pointing out that it is a safety issue for both residents and students.
Only one underage person was found inside Shorty's, but the youth's blood alcohol content was zero.
"Which is good. That means Shorty's is doing its job," said Green.
There are also safety concerns of those walking home along dark alleys and places where there are no sidewalks. The shuttle, which runs until 3 a.m., has addressed that issue but he still sees many walking back to campus or their apartments.
From Sept. 11, 10 p.m. to 2:45 a.m., Sept. 12., The Patriot rode along with the chief.
There were eight officers on duty out of the 10 KPD officers, with two on foot, two on bicycles and the remainder in police vehicles. There were also the code officer and Liquor Control Enforcement officers.
While listening intently to the police radio, Cole drove along the streets of Kutztown. Main Street was alive with activity. Calls were heard across the radio to respond to noise complaints, citations for loud parties, open containers, disorderly conduct and public urination. He used a spotlight to efficiently spot suspicious activities. Their goal, he said, is to deter and apprehend.
"We want to make people aware that we're out doing our jobs," he said.
A call over the radio broke the silence. Officers on foot and on bicycles were chasing a suspect who ran from them. Immediately, Cole drove to their location nearby to join in the search, using his spotlight once again. Moment after heart-pounding moment, we drove around block after block while listening to the other officers shout their position. Then, the call came through that they had the suspect in handcuffs.
We arrived on the scene to find several other officers from Kutztown, Campus Police and Berks-Lehigh driving by to offer assistance. They passed by with the word that the situation was contained. Speaking to the other officers, we discovered that a 20-year-old male had ran from officers because he had been arrested several times previously for under-age drinking. Shouting one moment and apologizing the next, the suspect was placed in the back seat of our vehicle and he was taken to Kutztown Borough Police Department where he was placed in a cell and processed, saying he was not harming anyone by drinking.
"That he's not doing anything wrong is pervasive with others," said Cole.
Cole first became an officer in 1977 and later joined the Kutztown police force in 1979. Chief since December 1996, he enjoys the variety of the job.
Among his concerns is the recent rash of graffiti vandalism striking Kutztown.
"Hopefully, we'll catch the ones doing the graffiti. If we catch them, I promise you we'll prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law," said Cole.
The borough recently instated a graffiti ordinance prohibiting anyone under age 18 to carry spray paint or a broad tip magic marker. Consequences depend on whether the suspects can be identified as perpetrating multiple acts and the extent of the damage. Vandalism to a government building such as a school is considered a criminal act and the suspect could face jail time or juvenile detention.
"As the value in the damage rises, so do the severity of the charges," said Cole.
Suddenly, we heard on the radio that there was a fight at Apex Apartments in Maxatawny Twp. involving about 30 people and an unknown weapon. With sirens blaring and lights flashing, we passed motorists to assist Berks-Lehigh at the scene with other Kutztown police and campus police. Police arrived to find no one in sight; the crowd had dispersed at the sound of the sirens.
At the end of the shift, officers returned to the station to fill out at least an hour's worth of paperwork, recording everything that happened that night.