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Increase in IC violence could be due to 21 exemptions

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | DECEMBER 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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Officials say Iowa City's 21-ordinance led to a dip in violence last year, but exemptions to the ordinance could be driving incidents back up.

Iowa City officials have seen a decrease in violent incidents in the past few years. But Iowa City police records may indicate a slight increase for 2011.

And in light of last weekend's male-on-male fight — which led to a man's hospitalization — officials said increased access to alcohol is a factor in many altercations.

"There's usually alcohol-tied," said Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton. "There's always that component, and usually, if people haven't had alcohol, there wouldn't have been a fight."

Between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2010, violent acts in Iowa City totaled 335 — a 5.10 percent decrease from the previous year. In 2011, police saw an 8.06 percent increase at 362 incidents throughout the same period.

Brotherton said the implementation of the 21-ordinance contributed to a decline last year, but she speculates that exemptions to the ordinance have negated the effects.

"People stopped coming in from other towns," she said, noting Iowa City's nightlife reputation was a factor in drawing in crowds.

Michael Takacs, a UI clinical associate professor of emergency medicine, said the exemption rules are too lenient.

"It seems that assaults are coming from people who are visiting Iowa City," he said. "Generally speaking, it's not the University of Iowa students causing most of the problems."

Non-UI students ages 18 to 20 involved in alcohol-related emergencies had decreased by 34 percent since the 21-ordinance, while UI students involved in the same incidents had decreased by 15 percent, Takacs said.

But visits are again on the rise, he said.

"I think part of it is these [21-ordinance] exemptions, and it's made it easier for undreamed drinking," Takacs said.

He noted that alcohol is almost always involved with emergency assault victims.

"When you talk about assault, you are essentially talking about young men being intoxicated and making bad decisions," he said. "Access to alcohol correlates, in my mind, to the number of assaults."

Kelly Bender, the UI campus community harm-reduction-initiative coordinator, said the Partnership for Alcohol Safety recognizes the problem as a community issue.

"It's all about having a more moderate relationship with alcohol, and I think we are moving in that direction," she said. "Anytime that something happens that wouldn't if alcohol weren't involved is really sad."

Though Tom Lenoch, the owner of the Library, 113 E. College St., only recently opened his business, he does have policies in place to separate both parties and, if necessary, escort them away from the establishment.

"I haven't really noticed anything downtown, on the Pedestrian Mall area at least," he said, noting he can't speak for the entire downtown. "We haven't had any major problem in my place."

Brotherton said though the police work to better monitor downtown, their efforts are limited.

"We've had a few serious assaults lately, but they are still going happen," she said. "We can't prevent them all."


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