It’s early Saturday morning, just after midnight, and University of Maryland Police Department Cpl. Vincent Deere is “DUI hunting” in College Park.
“Sometimes, we get to work and it’s like the city is on fire,” he said.
Tonight is not one of those nights. With a light drizzle and no major sporting events underway, Deere isn’t expecting too much action during his midnight shift.
October will mark Deere’s eighth year with the department, making him one of its most experienced officers. He knows what to look for when tracking an intoxicated driver — aggressive driving, swerving, turn signals with no turns, windshield wipers with no rain.
“Your spidey sense will notice something,” he says.
Although he never knows what his 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift will bring, he says he tries to focus on DUI enforcement whenever he can.
“You feel like you’ve made a purpose that night,” he says. “You feel like you’ve done something.”
Deere lights up a Chevy Trax traveling northbound on Route 1 between Delaware and Erie streets, his first action of the night.
He shines his spotlight on the vehicle’s driver, who had veered into the center lane several times. He greets the female driver as he approaches, and as soon as he looks through the window, he knows exactly why she was swerving — a partially eaten Subway sandwich lays in her lap.
She gets off with a warning.
A call comes across the radio for a sick/injured person outside of Wicomico Hall on South Campus. Deere takes it.
As Deere arrives, the intoxicated man — an 18-year-old from New Jersey and not a university student — has his head in his lap.
A few minutes later, the fire department shows up. They ask the man if he wants to go to the hospital. He says yes, they place him on a stretcher, and Deere writes up the report in his vehicle.
Around this time of night, he says, calls like this become more frequent as people head home from a night of partying. He says he could spend most of the night writing up reports like these.
A call comes across the radio for backup: another officer has just pulled over a suspected drunk driver in a Scion tC in front of the Pocomoke Building — the police headquarters — on Route 1 next to Fraternity Row.
Deere said they always try to have at least two officers for stops like these.
As the other officer is walking the suspect through the standard field sobriety test and Deere is keeping an eye on the Scion’s passenger, another intoxicated male stumbles from the bars south of the headquarters.
He catches Deere’s eye as he comes closer, and walks into the three-foot-high brick wall in front of the police station, flipping face-first into the grass.
Deere rushes over to the male. Though he tells the officer he’s fine, a few moments later, he starts vomiting.
“Well, you look like you’re in rough shape,” Deere says. “I just want to make sure you’re OK.”
The fire department is called to check on the male, and Deere confirms he is not a current student. The male says he is heading to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house and repeatedly asks for his identification back. He grows impatient as he waits.
“Dude, I literally don’t want to deal with this shit,” he says.
Deere reminds him that he needs to watch what he says, and points out that he just walked into a brick wall.
As the driver of the Scion is taken into the police station — he failed the sobriety test — the fire department arrives and lets the intoxicated male continue on. He offers to shake Deere’s hand, but Deere settles for a fist bump.
“Because of the vomit, you know,” he says. “Walk better.”
Another call for a sick or injured person comes across the radio. This time it’s an unconscious female near Norwich Road.
As Deere makes his way to the call through the “Graham Cracker” — the department’s name for the area of Yale Avenue where sorority houses are — he sees four males walking deliberately in front of his car, carrying pizzas.
They turn around to acknowledge him and take their time in moving out of the way. As he passes them, one of them gives him an obscene gesture.
“What the students really think is we’re trying to ruin their fun time, and that’s not it,” Deere said. “They see it as we’re trying to ruin their college experience.”
Deere arrives as the 17-year-old female is being taken out of an apartment. He needs to contact the girl’s parents before she can be transported to the hospital, but she is unresponsive and her phone is locked.
Eventually, her phone is unlocked and Deere is able to speak with the girl’s mother. She had no idea her daughter was in College Park, and thought she was at a friend’s house.
“What am I going to say to this parent to make them feel at ease?” Deere says. “It’s never easy.”
Calls like these can pile up, Deere said, and keep him from doing other police work.
“It’s almost like you’re babysitting,” he said.
Deere takes another loop around Route 1, but the streets are quieter. The bars have long been empty, and there are fewer cars on the road.
Deere heads back to the headquarters. He may need to go to Washington Adventist Hospital to get the girl’s information to complete his reports, since she did not have her identification.
Normally during shifts like these, he said, there are more fights and more reports of disorderly conduct.
“This was a slow night,” he says.