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Other towns find party patrols useful

BY NINA EARNEST | SEPTEMBER 02, 2010 7:20 AM

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Michael Guido was walking with three friends last weekend when two men approached them.

Wearing dark blue windbreakers, they appeared inconspicuous — at first.

The men quickly focused their attention on a man carrying an open can of beer.

When they busted out the flashlights, it became clear to Guido: They were the police.

Like other University of Iowa students, Guido, a sophomore economics major, has noticed an increased police presence in the neighborhoods.

Police departments at other large schools say such a presence has worked for them.

The Iowa City police announced Monday the department would deploy party patrols — or police teams designed to monitor neighborhood parties — on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in response to community concerns and to be more "proactive," said Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton.

Called-in complaints for loud parties during the last weekend in August decreased from 61 in 2009 to 45 this year — which police say suggests the Party Patrol is working.

The patrol has been in place since spring, Brotherton said. But now that downtown is quieter, police on these patrols are no longer pulled from neighborhoods to assist officers downtown when bars close.

"We weren't able to use this many for patrol, but now we've been able to shift that," she said.

The party patrols — composed of teams of two to four on foot, bikes, or in patrol cars — are paid with an overtime hourly wage that varies depending on the experience of the officer, Brotherton said. She said grants awarded to the department cover the overtime costs.

Party patrols are used effectively on other college campuses, police officials in those towns said.

Iowa State University runs a supplemental party-patrol shift with two to four officers working from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. from Wednesday to Sunday, said Ames police Cmdr. Mike Brennan. Brennan said the patrol "keeps busy, going from party to party" and interacting with students to remind them to keep the parties "small and manageable."

The Cedar Falls police once used a bootlegging team to monitor parties around the University of Northern Iowa, said Cedar Falls police Capt. Jeff Sitzmann.

The team, though effective in decreasing the number of large keggers, was "very consuming in terms of time and manpower" and Cedar Falls stopped using the patrol, he said.

Alcohol researcher and UI psychology Professor Peter Nathan said he was surprised to see data showing a decrease in Iowa City parties.

"I would have expected house parties to increase and then level off," he said. "Maybe they are missing some."

Nathan has conducted studies over the years suggesting freshmen drink more than upperclassmen and with less caution.

Considering the increased size of the freshman class, Nathan said, he assumed parties would be the alternative to the downtown bar nightlife. But most freshmen don't live off-campus.

"It will be hardest for them to find the house parties," Nathan said. "They don't know people."


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