UI police carry burden of downtown patrol


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Garbed in Under Amour headwear and heavy jackets, three officers from the University of Iowa police made their rounds of university buildings, bars, and the Pedestrian Mall just as they have for the past seven months.

But since UI police added the 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. downtown shift in June 2010, when the 21 ordinance took effect, they have shouldered the burden of monitoring the area. By writing the bulk of citations for underage patrons in bars after hours, they routinely allow Iowa City police to focus their attention on other areas of the city.

“Essentially, we know there’s tons of underage people in [downtown bars], but we can’t get them all,” said Officer Mike Mather. “We just go in there and kind of make our presence known and maybe some of these kids will go home and make better choices.”

Since Jan. 1, the UI police have issued 30 tickets for presence in a bar after hours and 43 PAULAs; Iowa City police issued five presence tickets and 14 PAULAs in that time.

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While officials said they haven’t intentionally changed their patrols since the 21-ordinance, Iowa City police Sgt. Dave Droll said they’ve stepped up patrols during the hours before 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

“We’re well aware of Friday After Class,” he said. “But … we haven’t found that the bars are packed up until 10 o’clock.”

As officers entered Sports Column, 12 S. Dubuque St., at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, faces went pale and students strategically backed away from tables covered by cups of alcohol.

Officers ID’d UI junior Kyle Klaren, who said he rarely comes out because the police presence can be disconcerting.

“I haven’t come downtown that much just because of [the 21-ordinance],” said the 21-year-old business major. “We stay away from the bars because of the cops. It’s just easier to stay in and drink at our place.”

And while police officials from both departments said they have not significantly altered bar checks, students said they feel police presence has amplified downtown.

“I think [the police] are downtown a lot more,” said UI sophomore Alex Petitti.

But some students said they thought others were treating the ordinance as a challenge.

“All the kids under 21 are going downtown to rebel against the 21-ordinance,” said UI freshman Thomas Kelly. “There are more fake IDs, there’s more alcohol being purchased, and there are more bets on people not being able to get into the bars.”

The disparity between the number of citations issued by Iowa City police and UI police can be attributed to differences in organization.

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said the Iowa City department’s temporarily small staff — due to regular illnesses, injuries, and deployments — also has an effect on where officers patrol and how many are sent downtown.

Droll agreed, and said one reason the UI police may hold the bulk of citations is because they’re designated to focus on downtown.

“We encompass bar checks along with our other duties,” he said. “And we do it based on staffing.”

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