Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Appendix A: Summary of Responses to Student Party Riots

The table below summarizes the responses to student party riots, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.


Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
Initial Planning
1Creating a multiagency task forceBrings together a variety of community resources, and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the groups involved…there is community or city pressure to prevent disturbances, so that more organizations and agencies will be willing to assist policeSome agencies may be reluctant to get involved, especially if there has been negative press concerning previous efforts to control disturbances
2Requiring students to get a permit to host a gatheringNotifies authorities of a gathering in advance, sets restrictions and standards for the event, and holds hosts responsible for meeting basic requirementsa city ordinance already requires such applications, and this requirement can easily be communicated to students and the surrounding communityThe city council may have to pass new legislation
3Assigning police officers as advisors to hosts of gatheringsOfficers help students to meet legal requirements for hosting a gatheringthere is an available campus or community officer with whom the students are familiarStudents hosting the gathering may not be willing to work with police
4Increasing the consequences of rioting, and educating students about the penaltiesDeters students from engaging in destructive behaviors at gatheringslaws and sanctions prohibiting rioting are in place, and students perceive these penalties as a credible threat for misbehavingPenalties must already exist and be severe enough to offset the perceived benefits of engaging in a disturbance
5Partnering with the media to influence student and community perceptionsIncreases positive perceptions of the event and perceptions of risk for those interested in causing a disturbancethe police can or have established positive relationships with the mediaInterventions must be developed and implementation must begin before the media can focus on these strategies
6Working with landlords to ensure renter complianceCreates an additional element of risk for students who host disruptive gatherings on rented property; encourages landlord participation in preventing disruptive gatheringspolice have the full cooperation of landlordsWithout the backing of legal requirements, it may be difficult to obtain the assistance of absentee or uncooperative landlords
7Controlling alcohol distributionReduces student alcohol consumption, underage drinking and purchasing of alcohol, and drunken drivinga multifaceted approach is used that targets vendors, students, local laws, and liquor outletsSome strategies are easier to implement than others; limiting the number of alcohol outlets may take many years, require local government cooperation, and create significant opposition
8Providing alternative entertainmentReduces the number of people at a single gathering; provides other recreation opportunities in a more controlled settingthe alternatives are attractive to college-aged individualsUniversity-sponsored events often do not serve alcohol due to liabilities; this may decrease general interest in the event if alcohol is being offered elsewhere
Preassembly Preparation
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
9Asking students to participate in "student patrols"Allows peers to "police" themselves; reduces the need for official interventionsthose in charge of security are seen as authority figures, and other attendees respect this authorityThis must involve a tightly coordinated effort between the student patrols and police in case of a violent outbreak or emergency; students who patrol should not be asked to engage in dangerous situations
10"Sanitizing" the gathering locationRemoves objects that can become a safety hazardmultiple agencies help police to identify and remove hazardous materialsTo prevent new debris from collecting at the location, final cleanup should not be organized too far in advance of the event
11Monitoring advertisements for gatheringsNotifies authorities of large gatherings in advancethere is clear and immediate communication between university officials and police once fliers are postedStudents may continue to post fliers without proper approval; officials must have a monitoring system in place to track and remove this material
12Limiting parkingIncreases the effort needed to attend; removes targets that may be vandalized; clears exits in case of an emergencypolice enforce no- parking at the event location and in the immediate adjacent areasOpposition may arise if residents do not have access to off-street parking; police should also anticipate where students will park instead, to prepare for possible traffic problems or citizen complaints
13Closing or controlling traffic flowReduces pedestrian injuries; prevents students from bringing in large, dangerous objectsthe measures do not significantly disrupt busy traffic routes during peak traffic hoursClosing major thoroughfares will require planning and coordination with the media to alert the public of alternative traffic routes
Assembly Process
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
14Providing transportation to the eventFacilitates orderly arrival; reduces the number of cars at the event; prevents attendees from bringing large quantities of alcohol to the eventthe transportation leaves from an easily accessible, centralized locationPolice need to consider the number of buses or vans needed to transport the expected number of attendees, and the liability associated with providing this service
15Establishing a positive police presenceReduces anonymity and facilitates communicationpolice presence is established early on, preferably as people begin to assembleHosts and attendees may view any police presence as negative
16Establishing and controlling gathering perimetersPrevents the gathering from spreading too far into the surrounding areasnatural barriers are usedThe size of the most appropriate perimeter may be difficult to determine before full assembly; police should make necessary adjustments as people arrive and begin to disperse
Assembled Gathering
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
17Using alternative deployment methodsGives officers a tactical advantage over car patrolspolice use more than one deployment methodPolice cars are still likely to be needed, but should not be the principle method of deployment within the gathering
18Using visual deterrents to inhibit misconductDeters attendees by reminding them of the consequences of riotingall members of the gathering can see the "deterrent"Police must maintain an appropriate level of deterrence, without appearing overly hostile
19Videotaping the assembled gatheringReduces anonymity; assists in subsequent investigationsattendees are aware they are being filmedCivil liberty issues may be called into question if the gathering is held on private property
20Strategically locating the media around the gatheringBreaks the cohesion of large groupsthe media are spread evenly throughout the areaThe media may want access to film from various locations and fail to cooperate with police requests
21Recognizing and immediately removing factors that could lead to a flashpointRemoves the impetus that causes a violent outbreakthere are enough police to adequately observe the entire gathering's activitiesPolice may contribute to a flash point if they unnecessarily harass people who are not engaged in destructive behavior
22Developing a standard operating procedure in case of a disturbanceContains and stops violence after it beginspolice use force only when necessary and target only those individuals engaged in disruptive behaviorReactive strategies, if perceived as unjust, can serve to instigate rather than inhibit violent activity
Dispersal Process
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
23Providing transportation from the eventControls dispersal; reduces drunken drivingpeople are returned as soon as possible, without having to wait too long in a crowded place for transportationIf too many people are dropped off at the same place at the same time, a disturbance may occur at this secondary location
24Facilitating orderly dispersalBreaks up the gathering before a disturbance beginspolice wait until people break into smaller groupsShutting down the event too early may lead some people to resist police authority and possibly rebel by vandalizing property or attacking officers
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
25Developing reactive responses onlySuppresses a disturbance once it beginsThese do little to prevent disturbances, and may even instigate them
26Banning all student partiesProhibits alcohol- related gatherings at venues where a ban can be enforcedthere are no easy alternative locations where the ban cannot be enforcedThere are civil liberty issues associated with this tactic, and students may refuse to comply, particularly those living off-campus
27Relying on parental controlDeters students through parental informal social controlstudents still live with their parents or rely on them for financial supportSharing information with parents of individuals over 18 may violate privacy laws