Undercover Officer continues to arrest U. students for underage drinking| May 1, 2016
Undercover Princeton police detective Adam Basatemur continues to make arrests of underage alcohol buyers outside Varsity Liquors this year, according to police reports.
In early March of last year,the Daily Princeton reportedthat Basatemur operated outside of Varsity Liquors and has made over 100 related arrests over the past two years.Basatemur has arrested at least 20 students and has been repeatedly reported to observe students walking into the store and follow them as they leave, according topolice and court records.
The Princeton Police Department declined requests for comment.
Varsity Liquors owner Arun Goel did not respond to a request for comment.
The Daily Princetonian spoke anonymously to a student who was recently arrested near the Varsity Liquor store.
According to the student, a few weeks ago, hehad gone to Varsity Liquors with a friend who was 21 years old, the legal drinking age.
While his friend was inside purchasing alcohol, he had opted to wait outside and, on the way back, his friend asked him to carry two six-packs of beer that he had bought, the student said.He added that he didn't notice the detective, who had beenfollowing the student and his friend across the street as they were walking.
As soon as the friend put the alcohol in the student's hands, the detective crossed the streets and asked to see their identification cards.
The student and his friend were then charged with underage possession of alcohol and serving alcohol to minors, respectively. These charges are classified as disorderly person offenses, which may incur a sentence of up to six months in prison and minimum fines, as well as probationary periods.Both students were served with a summons to municipal court, where their charges were eventually reduced.
The student's story is similar to that in the previous cases.
When asked if he felt that he was rightfully charged, the student said that he was. He added that his charges were reduced so they wouldn’t appear on his record.
In every case that the 'Prince' had previously examined, students had charges dismissed in court after they had paid fines or completed the designated number of hours of community service.The student was able to get his records expunged, and thus police narratives are no longer available.
Like other students who had decided to make the walk up to Varsity Liquors, he and his friend are “victims of being at the wrong place at the wrong time”, the student added.
The student's story and that of countless other accounts of under-aged drinking raises the larger question of when the line is drawn in a university setting, where a drinking culture is a main component of the college experience.
"I think that it is kind of crazy that there is an undercover officer who stands outside of a facility that is closely associated with the University and proactively charges students who he suspects are violating the rules," Tyisha Griffiths '19said.
She added that the officer's actions were unfair given the lack of transparency.
"There is no transparency in his actions, and it's kind of contradictory, especially when the University itself does not proactively prohibit students from drinking," she added.
The student said that this system is problematic because taxpayer money funds a police detective to follow University students for multiple blocks on Nassau St. before carding them, when, in reality, there are hundreds of under-aged students drinking illegally and often in public only two blocks away on Prospect Ave.
The student added that he is just as guilty as the countless under-aged students who drink illegally every weekend. He agreed that he broke the law, but he believes that he was punished because he did not conceal it well enough and simply because he was unlucky.
"I think the fact that there's an undercover cop near Varsity Liquors doesn't reflect the transparency. I also think that most drinking on campus is pretty responsible, so I don't think it's necessarily a problem. However, like anything, there are outliers," Katrine Steffensen '18 said.
Catalina Vives '19, an international student from Chile, said that she believes the legal drinking age in the US should be lowered to 18 years old, as it is in her home country, in order to encourage responsible drinking.
"I think people here do not know how to drink, they drink way past the point where it's enjoyable and it's a shame, because they don't even remember the good times they have," she said.
She felt that students at the University often overuse alcohol because they feel as if they are pressured to do "all the things that they are supposed to do" in a college environment, including heavy drinking.
The studentadded that in order for the Princeton Police Department to be more of an integral safety provider and monitor for the University, aprosecution policy similar to that of Public Safety's should be instituted.However, he added that the problems start at a federal level, and not just with the Princeton Police Department.