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Amherst, UMass officials prepare for potential party weekend

AMHERST — As the semester for local college students winds down, public safety officials are planning for the possibility of a weekend in which alcohol-fueled behavior could cause disturbances around town.

Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said Tuesday that police officers are prepared to handle any incidents that occur, with a particular focus on Saturday. “Our whole department will be coming in at various times during the day,” Livingstone said.

While police and fire personnel had a reprieve, of sorts, during the Easter and Patriot’s Day weekend, the last weekend in April has traditionally been one in which students try to have larger parties and may attempt to stage a Hobart Hoedown-like event someplace.

Wet weather would help prevent some of these issues, he said. “We’re hoping for rain,” Livingstone said. “It’s that simple.”

Staff from the Amherst police and fire departments and University of Massachusetts police met earlier this week to plan how to deal with problems.

Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson said the departments need to be prepared. “This is the last really big weekend for the kids to get a little nuts,” Nelson said.

Along with assistance from UMass, there is a commitment of 30 Massachusetts State Police officers, some of whom will help with traffic enforcement.

When all forces are added together, Livingstone said, there could be as many as 100 officers on the streets.

There also will be continued community policing efforts, such as those that have involved going door-to-door at Townehouse Apartments on Meadow Street and rentals on Hobart Lane in advance of weekends. These have demonstrated that students living at these off-campus homes aren’t trying to stage parties.

“The residents of Hobart and Townehouse have been respectful of our requests,” Livingstone said.

He observed that police do not go looking to break up parties. During the weekend of April 12 and 13, police responded to several parties with a dozen to 25 people and had no issues, so long as they did not grow in size.

“As long as we don’t get complaints, we don’t have to deal with them,” Livingstone said.

UMass officials are doing some programming on campus, including a barbecue between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Southwest area of campus.

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