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More police officers, fewer PAULA tickets

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | APRIL 21, 2009 7:30 AM

Iowa City police only wrote one PAULA ticket in downtown last weekend, despite adding four overtime officers.

Police are assigning additional officers to the area for the rest of the semester to focus on incidents of assault or disorderly conduct, said Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay.

The increased presence was a combination of two Iowa City police officers, two UI police officers, and a Department of Corrections high-risk unit.

This move comes after a series of seemingly unprovoked and unrelated assaults in and around downtown, leaving victims hospitalized with severe injuries.

Officers were able to make a number of arrests last weekend, arresting six individuals for disorderly conduct — or fighting — and three for assault causing injury. All were made either in or near downtown bars.

Overtime officers are on directed enforcement, Kelsay said, meaning those assigned to deal with fights on the Pedestrian Mall are not going inside bars.

Generally, overtime officers merely supplement existing patrols so they can address typical downtown problems, such as alcohol enforcement, he said.

Some students expressed concern that the additional officers would simply hand out more drinking tickets, but according to a DI analysis of police action over the last four weekends, police altered their normal patterns.

During the previous two weekends — when additional officers were assigned downtown — police wrote three and one PAULAs, respectively. The two weekends prior to this, officers wrote 56 and 24 PAULAs.

Officers also altered where they patrolled, conducting a combined 13 bar checks the last two weekends compared to a combined 83 the previous two.

Yet the number of public-intoxication tickets written downtown increased — from nine between April 3 and April 5 to 26 citations between April 17 and April 19. Most of these were written outside bars.

Students said they noticed the increased police presence on the Ped Mall.

“I saw three officers in the Ped Mall area, and I never see any there,” said UI sophomore Kayla Garvin. But she didn’t see an officer in the Third Base, 111 E. College St., during the time she was there, she said.

According to notes left by late-night supervisor Iowa City police Lt. Bill Campbell, April 18 was particularly hectic, with around 3,500 people pouring onto the Ped Mall following a concert at the Field House. Despite massive crowds downtown and lines for virtually every bar, police experienced relatively few problems when the bars closed, reports show. No assaults were reported that night, though police responded to two fights with injuries.

It’s too early to tell what effect the increased number of officers will have, Kelsay said, but both officers and supervisors say it is a welcome addition.

Campbell told the DI two weeks ago he could use twice as many officers around the time the bars close.

“[The additional officers] had plenty to keep them busy,” Kelsay said. “They definitely weren’t standing around.”


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