- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

College Park officials are fuming at and demanding answers from Prince George's County, Md., police, who did not move in to arrest college students who were vandalizing and burning property Saturday night.
Apartment dwellers near the University of Maryland campus yesterday said about 50 county police officers in full riot gear stood around their vehicles while vandals rampaged a few blocks away.
"If [the county police] were amassed there, they could have easily responded," said College Park City Administrator Dick Conti. "They could have walked to it."
City government personnel requested that police respond to the fires and vandalism on city streets and in residents' backyards that could total about $35,000 in damage, Mr. Conti said.
"That request was not followed up," he said. "There was no action to that request."
Police reported no arrests during the hours-long disturbance.
Prince George's County police Maj. Roberto Hilton, commander of the district that includes College Park, agreed to meet with Mr. Conti yesterday afternoon, the city administrator said.
Maj. Hilton postponed the meeting from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and then didn't show up at city offices, Mr. Conti said.
The police department's director of public affairs, Royce Holloway, did not return a telephone calls seeking comment yesterday. Officials did not answer their phones later yesterday.
The university's vice president for student affairs, Linda Clement, issued a statement yesterday saying, "We are disappointed that some of our students went beyond a level of tolerable behavior by going off campus and causing damage to private property. We regret that neighbors in College Park were alarmed by activities that evening."
Ms. Clement's statement said the university will work with Prince George's County police, and "individuals alleged to be involved in criminal activities related to these events will be subject to appropriate criminal and disciplinary action."
More than 1,000 students tore down lampposts, lit bonfires, ripped down private fences and even stole gasoline from residents' sheds after the Duke Blue Devils beat the Maryland Terrapins in the NCAA basketball tournament semifinal game Saturday night, Mr. Conti said.
Students also attacked Prince George's County firefighters, throwing rocks, sticks, bottles and television sets at them as they tried to extinguish dozens of fires, said Capt. Chauncey Bowers, public information officer for the fire department.
One bonfire destroyed part of Comcast's cable-television fiber-optic line, knocking out service for about 30,000 customers, said company spokesman Mitchell Schmaley.
Damage now stands at about $500,000, but "that could go up as the investigation continues," he said.
Mr. Schmaley said Comcast officials have not yet determined if they will seek compensation from the University of Maryland. "We're very, very early in the process. We're looking into the whole situation."
Richard Rochford and Ryan Lecky, who live in apartments on Fordham Court near the campus, watched officers in helmets, shields and batons stand around the entire night. They even took photographs of the officers.
"To be honest, we were all a little amazed," Mr. Rochford said. "They just pretty much milled about. They were just standing around. We were wondering if we should make them coffee."
Police deployed between 30 and 50 vehicles, including a lockup wagon, along Fordham Court, Fordham Land and a commercial laundry's parking lot, according to residents.
Only one or two patrol cars ever left, Mr. Rochford and others said.
"That was pretty close to where some of the incidents took place," said Mr. Conti.
In contrast, D.C. police by 11:30 p.m. Saturday had arrested at least 47 persons, most of whom were associated with a pub crawl. Charges ranged from public intoxication to disorderly conduct and even cocaine possession. Some of the arrested persons were underage, said Lt. Patrick Burke, the department's traffic coordinator.
D.C. police wanted to target underage drinking as well as prevent the mayhem College Park experienced.
"Part of our purpose out there was to make sure it doesn't happen," Lt. Burke said. "We had a huge police force, people saw us and that was a big deterrent. We were not letting anything slide by. I don't think anybody would take a chance doing that kind of stuff."
During planning meetings last week, College Park officials were assured rowdy students would be steered toward campus and plans were in place if they moved onto city property, Mr. Conti said.
"There's gotta be some explanation for why we got these results, and what will happen in the future to make sure it doesn't happen," he said.
The University of Maryland police wanted students to stay on campus, but took a hands-off approach to avoid a confrontation, said Maj. Cathy Atwell.
Maj. Atwell said she was unhappy two students were injured and there were so many fires, but added, "I am happy because I believe it could be worse."

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