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Bars, police join forces

BY MOLLY WRIGHT - SPECIAL TO THE DAILY IOWAN | OCTOBER 08, 2009 7:20 AM

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This weekend, two Iowa City police officers will work overtime patrolling downtown to help curb increased violence.

But they won’t be paid by the city. Instead, local bars will fund their overtime salaries.

“I can’t create more resources,” said Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay. “We don’t have the staff to increase our patrol, and we have a set overtime budget. Everything we have is out there.”

The officers are paid roughly $55 per hour, which includes overtime and benefits, Kelsay said.

At least eight bars have chipped in for about a month to pay the officers, said Marty Maynes, a co-owner of the Union Bar, 121 E. College St.

Maynes, who had the initial idea to pay for more officers, is joined by 3rd Base Sports Bar, DCs, Vito’s, Et Cetera, Martinis, Brother’s Bar & Grill, and TCB in “helping with the funding,” he said.

He said the establishments would like to continue supporting the partnership indefinitely, adding police presence each weekend during the school year.

“The more police officers you have anywhere, the fewer problems you will see,” Maynes said. “We are just doing our part to make everything as safe as humanly possible.”

The effort is in response to an upward trend of violence in Iowa City.

Between Jan. 1 and March 31, police saw a roughly 31 percent increase in crime calls over the same time period last year, police records indicate.

Both Iowa City and UI police placed more officers downtown last summer. But Kelsay said the football season and resumption of classes caused them to shift their focus. And Charles Green, the UI assistant vice president for the UI police, said he was unaware of a partnership between business owners and Iowa City police.

The plan appears to be working, though, said Martinis general manager Patrick Hahn.

The added presence has “definitely helped out,” Hahn said, and “there is not as much commotion.”

Despite the enthusiasm of those involved, some Iowa City city councilors said they didn’t know about the new plan.

Councilor Connie Champion said she was “delighted” that businesses are pitching in. Councilor Mike O’Donnell agreed.

But others familiar with the Pedestrian Mall scene were skeptical.

“Even if someone else is paying for it, [the officers] are still working overtime,” said Jim Clayton, the former owner of the Soap Opera and member of the state Alcohol Beverages Commission. “They have a hard job as it is.”

Iowa City police officials have emphasized the need for more officers in recent months, citing countless instances of officers rushing from call to call.

UI junior Kate Sheronick said she’s unsure how useful the new collaboration will be.

“I feel like the police could be doing something more productive than standing in the middle of the Ped Mall,” she said.

UI students Zachary Lampe and Brittany Kelly contributed to this report.


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