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Drug arrests spike at George Mason University

By Gregg MacDonald | The Gazette,

Concerts at the Patriot Center primarily were responsible for a nearly 1,000 percent increase in drug arrests by campus police from 2009 to 2011, according to George Mason University officials.

The university releases its Security and Fire Safety Report each year, as mandated by Education Department regulations.

In the 2012 report, which compares safety and security statistics at the university’s five campuses from 2009 to 2011, drug arrests on public property at the university’s Fairfax campus increased from 11 arrests in 2009 to 120 arrests in 2011 — more than a tenfold increase.

The jump in drug arrests largely is attributable to attendees at concerts performed at Patriot Center, said university Police Chief Mike Lynch.

“Patriot Center concerts draw crowds from all over the place,” he said. “We get large crowds and see large spikes in drug interdictions.”

According to Lynch, one recent performance, by the band Furthur, resulted in 40 drug arrests in one evening.

“We had another concert, by the band Soundgarden, that also resulted in a high number of drug arrests,” Lynch said.

University spokesman Paul Liberty said the school is proud of the Patriot Center and its ability to host concerts and sports events.

“It is a key component of the university’s brand,” he said of the center.

Liberty said revenue from events staged there also benefit the university. He said he was unsure if the number of scheduled concerts had increased at the center from 2009 to 2011.

“I am unaware of any stepped-up effort to have more concerts there,” he said.

According to Liberty, concerts and other events for the center are managed by the company Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which is owned by Ted Leonsis, the former AOL executive who also owns the Verizon Center and the professional basketball and hockey teams that play there. Calls made to Monumental were not returned.

Lynch added there might be one other potential source for the increase in drug arrests.

“The university opens a new residence hall every year,” he said. “That’s hundreds more young, excited 18, 19 and 20-something students coming to college for the first time every year.”

According to Lynch, the university currently houses about 6,000 of its estimated 34,000 students on campus. The university police department has a total of 58 sworn officers, 48 of whom are on the Fairfax campus.

“We think that right now, we are sized just right,” he said. “But we do anticipate extra resource needs in the immediate future.”

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