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City on alert

BY DANNY VALENTINE | AUGUST 24, 2009 7:05 AM

Students returning to the Iowa City drinking scene this weekend met an increased force of Iowa City and UI police patrolling downtown bars and the surrounding residential areas.

Bar- and house-party attendees can expect more of the same well into the school year, said Iowa City police Lt. Doug Hart.

“The message is: If you choose to participate in illegal or unlawful actions, chances are you are going to get caught,” he said.

Iowa City police charged 15 people with public intoxication, 14 people with PAULA, and another eight with using fake IDs between Aug. 20 and Sunday. Five were charged keeping a disorderly house, and there was one public urination.

This first weekend before classes is typically busy, but Hart couldn’t say if the number of arrests surpassed those in past years. But, generally, a heightened police presence means more arrests, he said.

Both police forces will have an increased presence in these areas for the next several months to curb alcohol-related violence, Hart said. The goal is to target people exhibiting poor “decision-making abilities” and stopping them before the behavior becomes violent.

The UI police will help out largely in the downtown area from 10 or 11 p.m. until 2 a.m., Hart said.

The UI force started assisting Iowa City police in 2008, he said, and the two groups have a strong working relationship.

“[Officers] are doing everything they can to keep students and families safe downtown,” said UI President Sally Mason.

UI police pick up extra shifts, she said, particularly on weekends when students tend to party the hardest.

Extra officers will be working overtime, though Hart didn’t know how many hours. He also said it was department policy not to disclose how many officers are working at a given time.

This year seems to have seen an even more dramatic rise in the number of officers downtown, Hart said. He said he saw more patrolling on Aug. 22 than he had seen in a long time.

“I think you can expect more of that,” Hart said.

Stopping house parties is also a priority. Iowa City police will now use police units specifically designed to break up parties in residential areas.

“I can tell you this year officers are going to be more apt to issue citations so we can prevent long-term problems, Hart said.

Whether an officer opts to issue a citation is largely based on the officer’s discretion, he said.

Aside from cracking down on alcohol-related crimes, police have also stepped up enforcement on jaywalking as well as biking and skateboarding in restricted areas downtown.

Paul Gray, a UI sophomore, said he feels safe downtown, but worried for some of his friends this weekend while attending a swing dancing event downtown Saturday evening.

“I sort of felt like I had to be with some of my friends who I didn’t trust to be alone,” he said.

Gray said he thinks police might be focusing too much on drinking issues, but he wants to be safe.

“If that means cracking down on underage drinkers, then so be it,” Gray said.

DI reporter Kevin Hoffman contributed to this article.


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