The Penn State University and State College police departments have been working together to combat the growing trend of rising Centre County liquor sales and alcohol-related crimes in the borough.
From a statistical standpoint, it's a necessary partnership.
State College Police Lt. Dana Leonard said there was a record number of DUIs this past year -- more than 489 -- and the number increases each year.
From 1997 to 2004, published data has shown that alcohol sales in Centre County have increased from $8.3 million to $16.2 million, which is a 95 percent increase, borough manager Tom Fountaine said.
"In general, what we've seen recently is consistent with what we've seen over long periods of time," he said.
Four years ago, in order to combat the problem of rising alcohol-related crimes, a program called the Source Investigation Project (SIP) was created.
State College police, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), undertook the project, which is aimed at making Penn State students aware of the likelihood of being caught and the sanctions they face for underage drinking and furnishing alcohol to minors.
Leonard, who directs SIP, said the State College police are working closely with the university police to further the project this year.
"There is no direct connection between the rise in alcohol sales and the rise in crime, but the trends are consistent," Leonard said. "Two-thirds of the crimes police respond to in State College are alcohol related."
Vice president for university relations Bill Mahon said the trends are not surprising.
"State College area police departments report alcohol and crime have a high correlation in our community," he wrote in an e-mail. "I would expect as more alcohol is sold, it does raise concerns about crime."
Tyrone Parham, university police assistant chief, said there has been an increase in students admitted into the hospital because of alcohol-related incidents -- most of whom have higher blood-alcohol content levels than documented in the past.
"People are drinking more in larger volumes," Parham said. "They are having 10 or more drinks in one sitting."
Nick Hays, PLCB spokesman, said Centre County has one of the fastest-growing, most dynamic economies in the state. He added that alcohol sales in the area have been on the rise since 2003.
The PLCB stores' sales growth comes from both increased volume and from rising liquor prices. Between 2003 and 2006, the PLCB also opened a sixth store in Centre County, contributing to the increase of liquor sales from previous years.
The increase in gross sales from Wine & Spirits stores in Centre County from the 2003-2004 fiscal year to the 2005-2006 fiscal year was about $2.97 million, according to the PLCB. There are six Wine and Spirits stores in Centre County, four of which are located in State College.
The totals do not include the sale of beer or alcohol sold in bars, restaurants and clubs because they are privately owned businesses.
Parham said the university and borough police are working together frequently to find out from where and whom students are getting alcohol.
"When we find people who have been drinking, we call the borough police to come down and interview them and if we get some straight facts, we start an investigation to find the source," Parham said.