Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fourth Watch

 Amherst Town Center 1:15 AM  McMurphy's Bar, Antonio's Pizza

Last night -- or I should say early this morning -- all five of our ambulances were busy dealing with ETOH (passed out drunk) students, four police cruisers (probably all the on duty ones we had) were at the scene of a drunk driver who had driven around concrete barricades, up on to active railroad tracts becoming hopelessly stuck ... when a call came in from South Amherst for an "unresponsive baby with difficulty breathing."

 Around Midnight APD dispersed a large crowd of unruly students from Phillips Street

Amherst Fire Department had to send a fire engine from Central Station and wait for one of our ambulances already at the hospital to return back to Amherst, thus causing a delay.  Obviously if our first responders had the personnel and equipment needed they could keep delays to a minimum, increasing both safety and peace of mind.

The last 12 hours should serve as yet another wake up call.  Town officials need to act quickly and decisively.  Our police and fire department's are understaffed.  And somebody is going to die.

Over the past six consecutive years, through sound fiscal management, the town has had an end-of-the-year surplus of just over $1 million.  A quarter of that would go a long way to solving staffing problems with our beleaguered first responders.

Tax exempt UMass, the second largest landowner in town, also needs to step up and help fund the professional providers who react to emergencies their students create.  Ditto Hampshire College.

Alcohol abuse is an epidemic that needs serious attention.  Anyone remember that UMass student motorcyclist  on his way back to campus last April only weeks before he was to graduate, slaughtered by a wrong way drunk driver on Rt 116 in Hadley?  I'm sure his family remembers!

DA Sullivan and State Police need to set up yet another high profile DUI roadblock in town before Halloween.  Senator Stan Rosenberg and Representative Ellen Story should file a bill making it a crime (or at least a civil offense) to be in an automobile with a drunk driver and not report it to authorities.
 Car stuck  on railroad tracks near Amtrak Station

I noticed the passenger of the drunk driver who drove his car onto the rail road tracks checking his smart phone while watching his drunk friend being escorted away.

 Jack Thornton. You drink & drive, you go to jail

Maybe somewhat sober people would think twice about getting in a car with a drunk friend if they knew they could be held responsible. Kind of gives new meaning to the slogan, "Friends don't let friends drive drunk."  And as one of my favorite twitterian's pointed out, "Especially on railroad tracks!"

When I told one of the cops I was live tweeting from the scene early this morning he asked, "Is anybody listening?"  God I hope so.

Arrested for DUI and trespassing on RR property:
Jack Thornton, 23 Bennett Rd, Gardner, MA, age 19


AFD member picked up the slack after I went to bed and posted to Facebook photo of all five Amherst ambulances parked at Cooley Dickinson hospital at 3:00 AM:

####Amherst Fourth Watch live tweeted####


Ladder 1 said...

UMass does not need to pay any more for first responders, they have a number of unmentioned students who volunteer. Hampshire does for sure, but the school who is keeping tuition as low as possible to service society cannot afford taxation. Hit the "non-profit" ones.

UMass needs a student first response program similar to Amherst to handle campus calls. This will cut down on the number of calls to campus which do not need 9/11 efforts, and our students are already the best trained in the area. Perhaps the fire department can host the training session for some money, thus earning income, deferring calls to students, and ensuring such students are trained to the best degree possible.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good suggestions here, Larry. Thanks.

One thing to keep in mind, college students are basically kids. Put some booze in them and they become animals. If it were up to me, I'd make alcohol in all of its forms illegal on all college campuses (and off) until the child is 25 or more. Of course that won't stop illegal drinking, but it will cut down on it abit.

Dr. Ed said...

Wow -- where to start.

First, did you notice the license plate on that vehicle? Yep, Boston Bruins -- wanna bet he wouldn't have gone to UMass before the hockey program got established?

Second, it required four police cars -- somewhere between four and eight police officers -- to arrest one drunken kid? Particularly one kid who appears not to be overly combative?

I could see two officers, but the entire shift?!?!?

If Larry is correct and the APD only has four operating cruisers (which itself surprises me), that means that every available officer except the station officer was in one of them (or should have been).

To arrest one kid? State troopers routinely do this by themselves -- and even if there were 2-3-4 other people in the vehicle, state troopers deal with the same thing out on the Interstate all the time.

There is something not being said here. Either the APD officers are not as well trained/able as other police officers (which I doubt, they do go through the academy don't they) or they are so viscerally disliked by the UM students that they fear that merely pulling some drunken moron out of the path of an oncoming freight train could provoke a riot.

That says something about kid/cop relations, doesn't it?

Third, if the unresponsive baby was in Mill Valley, that inherently means it is a Section 8 unit/"affordable" unit because all of the "market rate" units are rented by students. The Section 8 "Admin Fees" are quite lucurative and were Amherst a city, the Amherst Housing Authority would be part of the city and some of that money could flow back to the AFD. But since Amherst is still a town (yes, I know), the AHA is a separate municipal entity and none of its revenue -- from tenants, from admin fees, from state allocations -- goes to help pay for the ambulance and police calls.

Fourth, back to our Bruins fan. What was he arrested/cited for? According to the web, the fine for DWI alone is $500-$5000 which means that the APD, which gets half of all fines, will get $250-$2500 for that incident alone. More if they also cited him for other stuff, which with him on the tracks, I kinda think they might have.

Fifth, can you not see the Orwellian consequences of having a law requiring one to report violations of the law to the authorities? That is chilling if you think about it for a minute.

And so Amherst has problems. I have a better solution -- take a page from the Brits in Northern Ireland....

LarryK said...

I think the vehicle being on an active railroad track had something to do with the response.

And what I find "chilling" is the relatively high number of people who are getting behind the wheel of a car (with friends) clearly in no condition to drive.

Think about that.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps daddy and mommy should be getting summoned each and every time a student is drunk... they should be summoned to court... and then summoned to the Deans office. There should be a fine of 1000.00 per incident added to the school tuition.

LarryK said...

Last night graphically demonstrated that whatever it is public officials think they are doing to address this problem, it is NOT WORKING!

Anonymous said...

Nothing a good freight train couldn't solve.

Anonymous said...

Right on Anon. September 16, 2012 5:54 PM!!! I love it!

Anonymous said...

That's right. Choooooo chooooooo!!!!!

Larry, I pretty much unequivocally oppose you on most social/ethical/political points... but I'm with you on this one. When I attempted to drive into town early this morning, it was a veritable slalom course on Main St. for all the orange cones students (I assume) displaced during the night. And I remembered my tax rate and paltry services and thought to myself.... something must change.

Dr. Ed said...

Nothing a good freight train couldn't solve.

OK. You do know that reality isn't like the movies where Rambo can fire a rocket launcher out of a helicopter (without setting the helicopter on fire), guns that inherently hold a finite number of bullets can fire indefinitely without ever needing to be reloaded, and when a train hits a car, after the spectacular explosion, the debris seems to disappear and the train continues onward without difficulty.

Not in real life.

The freights going through Amherst aren't going fast enough to punch a car out of the way so it is just going to push it down the tracks until it fetches up on something at which point it probably will derail the train. Now that's all fine and good except for one other little thing, when tank cars jump the tracks, they have this bad habit of flipping over on their sides. And the worse habit of starting to leak when on their sides....

And that would be all fine and good were they filled with water, or beer, but some of the stuff they are hauling is quite a bit nastier than that. I've seen Chlorine (1017), Propane (1075) and some other stuff that I don't know the numbers of off the top of my head. These things are called "hazardous materials" for a reason -- they are quite hazardous...

Now it has a lot to do with the wind, but if there was a serious HazMat incident where this car was, they probably would have to evacuate from at least Lincoln Avenue all the way up to the Pelham Town Line - at 2AM if that is when it happened.

So be careful about what you ask for lest you get it -- and we won't even get into the fact that a railroad locomotive has a 5000 gallon tank and if it is full, you have the equivalent of two home heating oil trucks leaking or gushing everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, in his many long years of schooling Dr. Ed wasn't taught to recognize sarcasm when he sees it. Another failing of UMASS, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Your photo labeled "Amherst Town Center 1:15 AM McMurphy's Bar, Antonio's Pizza" doesn't have to do with this story. All you have a picture of is a bunch of people standing outside. This is not a riot. This is not a photo of drunken people driving cars. Do you have any proof that the person who drove on the tracks came from in front of Antonio's? If so, maybe he overdosed on excessive pepperoni because it's a pizza place. Perhaps he came from a private party. Students standing outside of a bar and a pizza place is not in itself a negative. If they walk home and don't do any damage to the neighborhoods than all is well. You are falsely creating a linkage that is not there based on your lead photo.

LarryK said...

Thanks for clearing that up.

Anonymous said...

Easiest solution:

1. Instead of carting every drunk to CDH, set up a drunk tank with appropriate medical staff near UMass. This will be used solely to treat people whose only condition is that they passed out from drugs or alcohol.

2. There is business/retail space available downtown and on University Drive where the facility can be established.

3. Add a mandatory $200 fee to all UMass students bill. At about 25,000 students that's $5 million in capital to start the drunk tank. Make it very clear on the bills what the fee is for. Call it the Fee for Stupid Drunkeness. This will show parents and students exactly what the problem is and what they're paying for.

4. In addition, charge everyone taken to the drunk tank $300 in addition to what their insurance might cover.

This solves a number of problems. It keeps the AFD ambulances from spending all weekend all the way across the valley in Northampton. It isolates the drunks where their treatment does not take away from treatment of actual sick people at CDH. By funding it through student fees it sends a message that the town is not going to continue to continue to use limited resources to pay for this irresponsible behavior.

Anonymous said...

I remember watching a story about these busses manned by medical staff that travel around Las Vegas that pick up drunks, take care of them medically, sober them up,and bill them. There is an untapped gold mine business here for someone

Anonymous said...

" LarryK said...

Thanks for clearing that up."

No problem. Thanks for not letting facts get in the way of a good way to hype the story.

LarryK said...

Actually that was sarcasm, which of course requires its own special font. I think the facts of the story speak for themselves ( and remember that "a picture is worth 1,000 words).

Anonymous said...

College students as we all well know can be a pain in the arse. But seriously, what's all the fuss about? Mr. Kelley, I find it hard to believe that you grew up in Amherst. Have you forgotten what the five college area was like in the 70's & 80's? BuschFest, Schiltz-O-Rama, happy hours, after hours? Any of those ring a bell? You ask ANYONE over the age of forty including Chief Livingstone, if things are any "calmer" now then back in those days, I guarantee they'd say it's not even close. Partying was way more out of control back then.

So where did this massive change over start? Simple... and this is directed solely at that " big bag-o-wind...took me a decade to get a degree..Dr. Ed". UMass decided in the late 80's to rid themselves of any liability by outlawing alcoholic establishments such as the famous "Blue Wall". The officials at UMass then had the PVTA stop running late night service which forced many to drive. The next step was to shut down the fraternity lifestyle. Basically the university washed it's hands of the situation and let the town of Amherst deal with all the crap.

So given that, accept the reality that this is a college community and it's never going to change or move.

When are you moving Dr. Ed?

Anonymous said...

What changed is- how many times did you or anyone throw bottles and cans at police? How many of the parties were in residential neighborhoods? How often was someone stabbed or beaten almost to death? That's what I figured- probably never! The places to party then were on the UMass campus or Fraternities. It was controlled and civil. The University has done a great job of pushing this problem off-campus and into the Town. How busy is the UMass police Department these days? Correct- they are not, check their logs- nothing happening!

Dr. Ed said...

UMass Housing (now "Residence Life" although I prefer "Residual Strife") did three things, circa 1990, that changed everything.

First, they instituted the "open container" rule which meant that you could not walk from your room to your friend's with an open beer, and that you couldn't have parties in the lounges.

Second, they locked the "main" door of the dorm and put alarms on all the rest. This made it much much more difficult to go visit friends in other dorms -- so where do folks go meet -- off campus at someone's apartment.

Third, we had the introduction of "Political Correctness." They went from hiring RAs who were peer leaders to hiring to promote "Social Justice." A schism rapidly appeared between those who worked for Housing and those who didn't, and the peer leadership role shifted from the RA to the kid who bought alcohol for the underaged kids, and then to the drug dealer.

The UMPD are busier than you might think, they just don't put things into their log. Remember that they answer to A&F, and the university is way more worried about its reputation than that pesky little public records law.

Anonymous said...

Are you ever going to leave Ed? If you hate Amherst so much what are you still doing here? I thought you were leaving as soon as you got your degree? Wassup?