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Boozy students leave trail of destruction right across west coast of US

GROUPS of drunken Irish students left a trail of destruction along the US west coast, it was claimed yesterday.

Apartment owners in San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Barbara were left with big repair bills after their properties were trashed by the students.

Californian police issued charges for offences ranging from public drunkenness to vandalism, and told of holes in walls caused by knives being flung across rooms.

"A common feature in all the properties seems to have been a drinking game they played called 'Smashy Smashy'," said a police spokesperson.

in the district of Isla Vista, in Santa Barbara.

"It seems they would go in groups from one Irish-rented property to another throughout the evening and break off window wipers, antennae and other items from cars along the way."

She added that police in Isla Vista had been liaising with colleagues in other US cities along the west coast and spoke of large numbers of citations for offences being processed. The citations are split roughly 50-50 between male and female students, she said.

One group of students also rented motor-homes, causing ?50,000 of damage to one.

One Santa Barbara property manager said a number of students had emailed her in relation to the damage caused but she had yet to see any cheques in the post, or remorse.

Katie Maher of BDC property said she hoped that media coverage in Ireland this week would shame the students or their parents into coming forward.

"I have rented to Irish students over the summer and they do tend to be rowdy because they come in large groups. A lot of them are not 21 so they can't get into bars, and they drink at their rented apartments," she said.

Adding that this year was particularly bad in terms of the vandalism caused by the students, she said: "It was almost as if they were being destructive just to hurt us.

In one property the front door was smashed in, windows were broken, and walls were covered in obscene graffiti.

BDC estimate that the students caused more than ?15,000 worth of damage to apartments in their care. Other management companies have had similar problems.

Two of the third-level students are thought to be from the Blackrock area, while a number are from other parts of Dublin.

One student from the Dublin Institute of Technology was questioned by police and police in Isla Vista want to speak to another 12, most of whom are thought to have returned home.

The president of DIT students' union, Bob Coggins, said that the alleged instances of vandalism were isolated cases.

"This is not reflective in any way of the thousands of Irish students who go to the US every year on J1 visas, who will be welcomed and will get on extremely well when they are there," he said.

President Mary McAleese yesterday urged teenagers to reject the "avoidable calamity" of alcoholism.

Speaking at a young people's forum on alcohol in Aras an Uachtarain, Ms McAleese told students that Irish society had ashamedly introduced them to a culture with an unhealthy attitude to alcohol consumption.

She said we had to work to reduce the ?2.5bn we spend on alcohol every year.

"The extent of the problem of alcohol abuse is serious. When we look at the figures, in the past 10 years, alcohol-related illnesses have increased by 61pc and incidents of alcohol poisoning by 90pc . . . and we know other comparable countries do no share our problem," said Ms McAleese. The conference heard a survey on alcohol consumption carried out by students from Moyne Community School in Longford showed that one in 20 pupils are what were termed 'full-flown alcoholics'. Worryingly, students were found to have started consuming alcohol as young as 10 years of age.

According to their research, 20pc of students were drinking alcohol in first year of secondary school but this jumped dramatically to 80pc by the time of the Leaving Certificate.

They reasoned that this was because 99pc of Leaving Certificate students have part time jobs and greater social independence.