Foxfield arrests have declined over past several years

Growing emphasis on safety at annual races

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There were seven arrests at the 2015 Foxfield, less than half than in 2014.

Marshall Bronfin | Cavalier Daily

The spring Foxfield Races — an event where thousands of students gather to watch horse racing — has seen its fair share of arrests and medical emergencies over the years. However, Lt. Mike Wagner of the Albemarle police department said the number of arrests made over the past three years has fallen.

Albemarle police officers attribute this decline to bad weather, increasing safety awareness and efforts of peer groups, like the University’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team. However, despite the lower number of arrests, the number of people needing medical attention has remained high, making safety a primary concern for officers attending the event.

Decline in arrests

Last year, seven people were arrested at Foxfield, as opposed to 18 in 2014 and 33 in 2013. Each year, the majority of arrests were alcohol-related.

“Over the last three years, we have had a decrease in number of persons arrested at Foxfield,” Wagner said. “At one time, it was well up in double digits, but now it’s decreased probably about 50-60 percent.”

Wagner attributes the decrease to officers’ zero tolerance stance on alcohol abuse and their efforts to educate people to recognize when someone needs medical help.

“What we’re trying to do, as opposed to taking those people into custody, is we’re trying to educate them to use the buddy system to assist in getting medical treatment,” Wagner said. “I think that our education and awareness program has allowed peer groups to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning and over intoxication and seek medical treatment before these persons become unruly and leave us no other option than to arrest them.”

In addition, the amount of people arrested at Foxfield each year might be affected by the weather. Last year, due to the rainy and cool weather, Ben Rexrode, crime prevention coordinator for the University Police Department, said there were fewer arrests than usual.

“Especially if it’s a really hot day and not only students, but anybody attending is drinking heavily … the effects of alcohol can definitely speed up,” Rexrode said.

This year, around 150 officers will be attending Foxfield, and their number one priority will be ensuring people’s safety, Rexrode said.

“[Officers] want to make sure that everyone has fun, but does it safely,” Rexrode said. “The biggest thing you look for is those people who may be having an alcohol overdose and are in need of medical help.”

Graphic by Shreyas Hirway

Reasons for arrests

Officers at Foxfield are on the lookout for several illicit activities, including violations of Foxfield rules, underage drinking, as well as situations affecting public safety, including people who cause a potential danger to themselves or others and people who need medical assistance.

“There’s definitely going to be officers that go out, and if there’s somebody who appears to be under 21, they very well may go up and ID them, and officers can do that,” Rexrode said. “The biggest thing I say is not to draw attention to yourself. If you’re doing something crazy or doing something outlandish … that’s just drawing a police officer’s attention.”

Police officers are also very aware of those who may be breaking rules specific to the Foxfield event.

“We prohibit any type of beer pong games, and there’s also an implementation of music restrictions so that we don’t get large gatherings with big speakers and it just becomes a free for all,” Wagner said. “Usually those types of things draw our attention along with [people] that appear very intoxicated and unable to care for themselves and/or are passed out to some degree.”

In addition, some of the rules regarding bringing alcohol to Foxfield have changed over the past few years.

“The size of the coolers that you’re allowed to bring into the event has changed dramatically,” Wagner said. “You are limited in the amount of alcohol in the coolers that you’re allowed to bring to the event. The theory behind that is that it reduces alcohol consumption.”

Those who are arrested at Foxfield are normally incarcerated on charges of being drunk in public. If someone is arrested as a University student, they will be treated as if they were arrested anywhere else, except the University and the University Police Department will be notified. An arrest by University police could also lead to charges being brought before the University Judiciary Committee.

“The most common one you’re going to see at Foxfield is drunk in public, which is where somebody is highly, highly intoxicated and staggering around and could even cause injury to themselves,” Rexrode said. “They’re going to be arrested, and they’ll be taken from there to the local Charlottesville-Albemarle regional jail.”

However, students get charged with an offense more often than they get arrested and brought to jail.

“For another offense, say underage possession of alcohol or simple possession of alcohol, that would just be where you get a summons, which is similar to a traffic ticket, but it’s a criminal offense,” Rexrode said. “You’d get a ticket, be released and have to show up at court.”

While the majority of arrests at Foxfield are related to alcohol, people are also arrested for the possession of narcotics. All arrests in 2015 were alcohol-related, but four arrests in 2014 were based on drug possession — three for possession of cocaine and one for possession of marijuana.

Promoting safety

Second-year Curry student Taylor Campbell, an intern with ADAPT, helped run a campaign which promotes safety at Foxfield. This past Tuesday and Wednesday, she tabled with other interns, handing out t-shirts to anyone who signed the Savvy Fox Safety Pledge.

“Anyone who signs the pledge [is committing] to be an active bystander and use the buddy system to keep friends and others safe, not drinking and driving of course, not getting into a vehicle with a driver that has been drinking or letting friends get behind the wheel impaired, as well as to practice safer drinking habits,” Campbell said.

ADAPT will also have a tent at Foxfield, where they will hand out water, sunscreen and snacks to anyone who visits.

If the weather is warm, becoming intoxicated at the beginning of the day could lead to an individual requiring medical assistance at the end of the day, Wagner said.

“We encourage people to moderate their alcohol use, not provide alcohol to those who are underage and to seek help if they feel like they’re becoming disoriented or too intoxicated,” Wagner said.

Even though the number of arrests has dwindled over the past few years, the number of people needing medical attention has been increasing, Wagner said.

“What we have seen is an increase in medical and alcohol poisoning related incidents probably by about 50 percent, and that’s more of a concern for us,” Wagner said.

If a friend or a stranger seems to need medical help, someone should bring the individual to medical personnel regardless of their age, Rexrode said.


“The last thing we want people to do is say, ‘I don’t want a police officer because they’re underage and I don’t want to get them in trouble,’” Rexrode said.

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