U party patrol criticized by some

Kevin Behr

Assaults and robberies near campus have prompted many to wonder why police are focusing so much attention on busting parties and fighting underage drinking, instead of combating violent crime.

Jacob Rohrer, an aerospace sophomore, said it is “unacceptable” for police to stop parties and not assaults. But party patrol proponents said the program has decreased the number of large parties, while the police presence in neighborhoods has deterred other crime.

So, why don’t police address cries for a tougher stance on violent crime with a specific patrol?

One answer is money.

“Critics of the program need to press for more money for assault or robbery detail,” said University Police Deputy Chief Steve Johnson.

The party patrols conducted by University police are a small part of a larger program dubbed the Minneapolis Safe City Initiative. The program sets aside $4 million per year for many agencies in the area to crack down on problems they see as most troubling.

University police have targeted underage drinking for the past four years, but this is the first year they’ve ever received money from the city for it, said University Police Lt. Troy Buhta.

The U.S. Department of Education supplied the University with an additional grant of $21,560 per year for the next two years specifically “to reduce high-risk drinking,” according to Kendre Turonie, coordinator for student and community relations at the University.

The education department grant money is specifically earmarked for underage drinking enforcement and alcohol-related offenses, Johnson said.

He said people can’t ask, “Why aren’t police doing (something different)?” University police, he said, are focused on maintaining public safety.

Effectiveness

Supporters of the party patrol program agreed the presence of police helps deter other crimes.

“When the saturation patrols are going on, the assaults and robberies aren’t,” Turonie said. “Individuals are choosing not to attack because of the large police presence.”

Tom Lincoln, Marcy-Holmes Safety and Livability Committee chairman, said he believes the party patrols deter crime by protecting residents and visitors who may have diminished judgment or awareness of their surroundings as a result of alcohol consumption.

“Then they become victims of assault, date rape and robbery,” he said. “And that’s something we’re very concerned about.”

But civil engineering sophomore Kris Carlstedt said he thought police should do a better job protecting students from assaults.

“Party patrols are trying to make drinking and binge drinking safe for students,” he said, “but that shouldn’t be the main concern.”

Police should focus attention on violent crime, said Andrea Guitart, a genetics junior

“They need to stop trying to bust parties and look for suspicious characters,” she said.

Most people interviewed for this story did not know that party patrols are separate from regular patrols.

Turonie said the patrols are designed to augment what the University Police Department is already doing. Officers participate in the party patrols voluntarily and are paid overtime salaries. If some other crime occurs, they are available to back up those on regular duty, Turonie said.

Daily patrollers are given specific instructions for each shift, targeting problem areas near the University, Johnson said.

“Police are in the areas where people feel unsafe,” he said. “We’re always willing to help.”

Besides patrolling neighborhood areas, the University Police are taking strides to reduce alcohol-related crimes.

Dana Farley, the director of health promotion at Boynton Health Service, said the negative effects of parties include vandalism, public urination and disturbing neighbors at all hours of the night.

“We’ve seen a decrease in driving under the influence and students are more concerned about where they’re going,” Farley said.