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UNG Dahlonega 'disappointed’ with partying students; law enforcement could issue citations
08172020 PARTY
Trash is strewn across the parking lot of University Heights housing in Dahlonega on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. News of a large weekend party at the off-campus complex spread across social media as the University of North Georgia prepared for its first day of class Monday. - photo by Jacob Smith

Law enforcement is now inquiring with health department officials on whether citations can be issued regarding the throngs of University of North Georgia students partying in Dahlonega over the weekend.

UNG officials said Sunday they were “disappointed” with reports and videos showing students partying in Dahlonega just days before classes were scheduled to start. 

“We are aware that a large outdoor party was held at a privately-owned, off-campus apartment complex located near our Dahlonega campus Saturday night,” UNG spokeswoman Sylvia Carson wrote in an email Sunday, Aug. 16. “We are disappointed that many of our students chose to ignore COVID-19 public health guidance by congregating in a large group without social distancing or face coverings.” 

Videos posted on social media and sites such as TMZ show dozens of students partying in close proximity. 

Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said he sent video footage his department has obtained to the health department.

“They are going to reach back out to me and tell me if we can do citations,” Jarrard said. “Naturally, at that point, it would be being able to track down who it was that initiated the party and things of that nature about writing them a citation.”

Lt. Alan Roach said the health department has this authority because of the public health emergency.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Saturday, Aug. 15, extending the shelter-in-place order and the ban on large gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jarrard said the executive order makes such a gathering a citable offense, though it was unclear what the formal name of the charge would be.

Concerning crowd control, Roach said law enforcement is tasked with trying to deescalate the situation without exacerbating it.

“If you go to a large group gathering like that and it’s just people gathering out in the open, you have to ask yourself: Is this something that I feel like I need to start slapping handcuffs on people and putting them in cars and arresting them for doing whatever?” Roach said. “Is that going to in turn cause large amounts of property damage, large amounts of injury from people running, trying to get away from law enforcement, different things of that nature?”

People drinking will be less steady on their feet and less likely to use good judgment, Roach said.

Roach said there were four calls for service to Lumpkin County 911 during the time period, though there were no arrests.

There were three UNG Police reports made at a Dahlonega property between 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, and 2 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 16. 

The first was at 11:13 p.m. at the Dahlonega recreation center for a report including disorderly conduct, public intoxication, theft and false imprisonment. An arrest was made in that case. 

The other two calls were at 11:50 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 a.m. Sunday, both at University Heights. The first call was an EMS response, and the second call was “discharging a firearm on private property,” according to the UNG Police log. 

No arrests were made in either University Heights report, according to the UNG Police log.

The university did not release any further details on these reports Monday, Aug. 17.

University officials said they were concerned that many of their students ignored COVID-19 public health guidance. 

“The University of North Georgia continues to emphasize to our students and university community that everyone has an individual responsibility both on and off campus to follow guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to prevent the spread of the virus,” UNG spokeswoman Sylvia Carson wrote in a previous email to The Times