As fraternity parties continue across Miami, police departments struggle to hold people accountable

The University of Miami Police Department is unable to go off campus to enforce UM’s social distancing guidelines. As a result, departments are forced to communicate with each other when collecting information on fraternity parties.

UM said it works with the surrounding police departments to monitor behavior, but difficulties can occur when relying on cross department communication,

SigEp’s party was initially reported to UMPD, who were provided with an address and time of the party. The party was out of UM’s jurisdiction, which meant the South Miami Police Department would need to be contacted. UMPD did send a note to the Dean of Students office informing them of the report.

Photo taken outside a Sigma Phi Epsilon party on Jan. 30th.
Photo taken outside a Sigma Phi Epsilon party on Jan. 30. Photo credit: Jesse Lieberman

The South Miami Police non emergency line was contacted at which point, 35 minutes after the initial call, South Miami police showed up to the party. They did not write a report or contact UMPD.

South Miami Police was contacted for this story but declined to provide the information of the responding officers and did not return a message requesting comment.

Several hours later, UMPD followed up to see what had happened. At this point the party was long over and the South Miami officers had gone home.

A follow-up call to UMPD two days later revealed an incorrect address for the party had been written and the investigation was still ongoing.

Students who live in the University Village have also expressed concern about the enforcement of the social distancing guidelines. Residents of the UV repeatedly report fraternities hosting large gatherings at their houses, often in front of police officers.

UMPD’s chief David Rivero declined a request for an interview.

“It’s not as cut and dry as it may seem when enforcing it,” Coral Gables chief of police Ed Hudak said. UMPD reports up to Hudak.

Hudak explains that legally when a party is hosted at a rental party, even if the renters are hosting the party, the police officers will often be dealing with the landlords rather than the tenants.

Reports of large social gatherings are also non-emergency, which means police officers won’t respond as quickly if it were an emergency situation. Nonetheless, police officers still need to see the behavior. As a result, if a report is made and police arrive after the party, there is nothing that can be done.

Hudak also says that his office is in frequent contact with the Dean of Students office and has worked with them on cases that resulted in punishments and suspensions. Challenges aside, Hudak is hopeful that things will eventually get back to normal.

“This is a long marathon, and I am optimistic that we can get through it,” Hudak said.