UI alcohol offenses jump

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | MARCH 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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The number of people arrested by University of Iowa police more than doubled between 2009 and 2010, with the biggest increases during the second half of the year.

The number of University of Iowa students charged with an alcohol-related crime also rose — by more than 30 between the third and fourth quarters of 2010.

According a report set to be presented to the state Board of Regents at its Wednesday meeting, 205 students received alcohol charges between October and December 2010. Only 169 students received charges between July and September.

Controlling for population, the report shows the UI surpassed Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa in total offenses, charges, and arrests on campus — a change from 2009.

But local officials said the increase should come as no shock, with the recent crackdowns by law enforcement to reduce underage and excessive drinking on campus.

“The numbers are not all that surprising,” said UI Vice President for Strategic Communication Tysen Kendig. “It’s a well-known fact we have been stepping up patrols both downtown and in association with football games in order to alter the climate of dangerous drinking activities.”

According to the report, more than half the people charged in 2010 received alcohol-related citations.

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said he thought the increase in charges was a direct result of more officer presence downtown from both the Iowa City police and UI police in an effort to change the “downtown personality.”

“We had one of the highest binge-drinking rates in the country,” Hargadine said. “Both the University and permanent Iowa City community were looking to us to do something about it.”

Following the implementation of the 21-ordinance on June 1, 2010, UI police implemented a downtown “power shift,” which sends two to three officers downtown between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday nights.

Hargadine said the Iowa City police have also “beefed up” their staffing downtown in an attempt to address the dangerous binge drinking rate.

The UI also implemented a “Think before you drink” campaign to curb overconsumption during football tailgating, which lead to a spike in overall arrests at the end of last year.

And while the numbers are concerning at face value, some officials said, increased enforcement and education are necessary to control behavior.

“We’re doing everything we can to educate the community of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption,” Kendig said. “But certainly enforcing the laws is an important part of reversing a climate of dangerous drinking.”

City Councilor Terry Dickens said he was not surprised by the results, and he expects the arrests to return to normal once residents are used to the changes.

“You’re always concerned when there’s such a large disparity between the schools like that,” he said. “But they haven’t had this [21-ordinance] go into effect, so the other schools should stay fairly standard.”

And thus far, Hargadine said, he believes the increased enforcement has been a success in altering downtown behavior.

“I think it’s a lot more under control,” he said. “It’s sort of the downtown that everyone wanted all along.”

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