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Iowa City, UI officials mull PAULA jump

BY BRITTANY TILL | AUGUST 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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Local officials have cited an increase in enforcement and under-informed students as causes for the increase in alcohol-related citations over the weekend.

Iowa City police say they’re patrolling more aggressively and Kelly Bender, the coordinator of the UI Campus and Community Alcohol Harm Reduction Initiative, said most new students may not be aware of those new policing strategies.

“Our community is going through some changes. Much of this is from students who don’t live here, who aren’t aware of the history of what has been going on related to alcohol laws, and that it has picked up in recent years,” Bender said. “So, there is an increase in enforcement downtown and at house parties that students aren’t aware of, but they might have heard we are the No. 4 party school or that you can easily drink downtown from students in the past.”

PAULA tickets issued by Iowa City police for the weekend before classes jumped from 18 in 2010 to 38 this past weekend. Citations for possession of an open alcohol container also jumped, from three in 2010 to 18.

While UI police data were not included in that data for either year, both departments sent two extra officers to patrol downtown last weekend.

Iowa City police Lt. Mike Brotherton said the department plans to test the waters before making any changes to its downtown presence, and the force plans to continue increased patrolling during football season and cut back on issuing warnings.

“This weekend was an orientation for everyone to find out how they’re supposed to behave,” Brotherton said. “There’s not much to do [last] weekend except for drink.”

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said students may also play a role in the increased number of citations in attempts to adjust to college life and test what they can and can’t do.

“People doing stupid stuff are the ones we want,” she said. “It’s the behavior that warrants attention, which leads to criminal mischief. No one wants someone peeing in the yard.”

Overall, Bender said, the UI plans to continue and expand the educational initiatives implemented through the Alcohol Harm Reduction Plan last year, because they were shown to have a positive impact.

But she noted the answer isn’t solely in education.

She said the UI hopes to continue efforts to decrease alcohol abuse. These measures include increasing alcohol-free recreational options late at night and on weekends, tailored messaging what it means to be a UI student, expanding screening and intervention, and increasing student engagement in university-sponsored activities. These activities include volunteerism, first-year seminars, and living-learning communities.

Law-enforcement officials said the citations would likely return to normal once classes begin.

“We wanted a presence out early to teach people what they are supposed to be doing,” Denise Brotherton said. “But we hope it slows down once classes start.”


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