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Police ready for first weekend with 21-only, students

BY ALICIA KRAMME | AUGUST 20, 2010 7:15 AM

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The students are back, and downtown Iowa City is greeting them with the new 21 ordinance.

Though the measure has been in effect since June 1, many have said its first true test will be when students return to campus.

But officials said they don't expect this weekend to be any more raucous than in the past.

Despite speculation that the 21-ordinance will increase the number of wild house parties, Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said he is not expecting anything out of the ordinary.

"This time of the year we always see a spike in house parties because there will be 30,000 more people," he said. "We don't expect that change because of the 21-ordinance — we expect it because of the population change the school year brings."

Hargadine said police are preparing for the increase in population by concentrating officers on duty, especially during the weekend and evening hours.

"If we didn't have any problems, we would be out of business," Hargadine said. "I do expect problems this weekend — that is the nature of our business."

Officials hope students will take advantage of alcohol-free University of Iowa Welcome Week events instead of drinking this weekend, said Tom Rocklin, the interim vice president for Student Services.

"The university is doing a number of things to curb underage drinking, including providing a number of alternatives to alcohol," he said.

The week will begin Saturday with a "Hawkeye Bash" from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the IMU.

UI officials have also expanded the Code of Student Life "to encourage students to be responsible on campus and off," Rocklin said.

UI sophomore Casey Leonard said the ordinance will not affect her plans for the weekend, because she avoided the bars last year.

Though the 21-only ordinance is not affecting everyone's plans, UI freshman Abbey Corbin said she is upset that the bar age has been raised.

"I would rather be in a closed environment when people are drinking and it's safer instead of out roaming the streets and going to house parties," she said.

UI freshman Brooke Elliff said she wasn't planning on going out to the bars.

"The 21-ordinance will change a lot of students' plans because coming into college some students think, 'Mom and Dad aren't around,' and they might take advantage of that freedom," she said.

The temptation is always there, officials say.

"There will always be opportunities for students to make bad choices they will end up regretting," Rocklin said. "I advise them to avoid making those choices and find other ways to spend their time."

Despite it being the first weekend before classes, Hargadine said tonight and Saturday don't mean much.

"I'm skeptical that one weekend will determine the success of the 21-ordinance," he said. "It is an attempt at addressing the binge-drinking problem in Iowa City and a message to the bars to comply with state laws."


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