State troopers, U police combine to curb alcohol violations

Tim Sturrock

During the next two weekends, Thursday through Saturday, five extra state troopers and University police officers will seek alcohol-related infringements on campus as part of a program called Operation NightCAP Junior.

Capt. Steve Johnson of the University police said he didn’t want the program – funded by a Minnesota Department of Public Safety grant – to be interpreted as a “crack-down.”

“What I want is for people to learn what the rules are,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that last weekend, officers focused efforts on educating people about the consequences of drinking, rather than citing them.

This weekend will be a mixture of enforcement and education.

For the past two years, a larger version of Operation NightCAP has included about 30 officers and troopers from local agencies during Spring Jam and Homecoming.

The next two weekends will mark the first time five extra officers and troopers will patrol on foot and in squad cars looking specifically for alcohol-related crimes, Johnson said.

Normally from 8 p.m. to midnight, six officers and two sergeants patrol the campus and surrounding areas, Johnson said. After midnight, the total drops to four.

In addition to five extra patrollers, two to four community investigators will be on duty during the late evenings.

Community investigator detail, a new assignment in Johnson’s department, entails putting officers with special community training on campus to identify trends, work on crime prevention and interact more with students and faculty, Johnson said.

Two community investigators have been assigned to cover University housing, one to handle research areas, one to cover the West Bank and one to patrol administrative buildings.

“(Students) should expect to see more officers than last year,” Johnson said.

Kimberly Araya, residential life coordinator, said she hopes the police will be seen in a better light even though she feels the current attitude toward police is good. “We’ve had good relations and we want to have better ones,” she said.

Leigh Thomas, a sophomore living in Pioneer Hall, said she was pleased, particularly as a woman, to hear there would be more police presence. But she has her doubts about police building a relationship with students who drink illegally or deterring students’ illegal activities.

“It’s unnatural for them to seek out a relationship with an authority figure, especially a police officer,” Thomas said.

 

Tim Sturrock covers cops and courts and welcomes comments at [email protected]