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Police will continue increased downtown patrols

BY MARLEEN LINARES | DECEMBER 18, 2009 7:30 AM

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After a jump in violence in and around downtown Iowa City, the UI police and Iowa City police joined forces this past semester to patrol the area, and officials say the partnership has been beneficial.

In August, the UI police decided to assign officers for downtown coverage on Friday and Saturday nights. There are normally two to four officers on duty, and they work in pairs for safety, said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police.

Previously, no UI officers were dedicated solely for downtown patrols.

Though allotting officers specifically to downtown is new this semester, Green said, the force has always kept the area a priority.

“We have officers going [downtown] even when they don’t have to be,” he said. “We all recognize it’s an area that needs a lot of attention.”

Though it’s difficult to determine whether downtown violence has decreased since the additional patrols, he said he thinks it is working.

“Downtown violence hasn’t been headline news since last year,” Green said. “I think that is a good sign.”

The extra patrol eases the jobs of Iowa City police officers by increasing the coverage of the downtown area. Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said the relationship between the two departments has been useful.

“They really have progressed in law enforcement,” Kelsay said. “They have highly qualified and highly trained officers. We are very much equal.”

Green said the idea came after a jump in the number of complaints the department received about downtown violence.

“All the worried parents were contacting us directly,” he said. “We wanted to make sure something was done about the issue.”

The UI force logs more overtime hours than Iowa City police, Coralville police, and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office combined. But overtime hours remain similar to last year’s numbers, prior to the addition of downtown patrols, Green said.

When UI police officers work the weekend downtown shifts, it is considered overtime. UI officers worked around 7,235 overtime hours this semester, and though it has not increased since last year, Green said he recognized that the number is high.

UI police work more overtime hours because they are responsible for more events — including sporting and university-sponsored events — than are other local law-enforcement agencies.

Some students have mixed feelings about the additional UI police officers.

UI sophomore Emily Dworkin said she thinks the increased patrol isn’t having much of an effect.

“It might help, but downtown gets really busy on the weekends,” she said. “An additional two to four officers won’t do much.”

However, UI sophomore Jennifer Ober said she believes the extra officers is a good idea.

“It’s better than having less officers downtown,” she said. “What they were doing was obviously not working in the first place, so [the extra officers] might help.”

Green said the department plans to continue its coverage of downtown in hopes of preventing violence.

“We are committed to the downtown and want to be consistent through the year,” he said.


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