Iowa City Police Begin Crackdown On "Ped Mall"

By Mark Carlson, Reporter

Iowa City Police officers Tom Hartshorn (left) and Rob Cash patrol the Ped Mall in front of Brothers Bar & Grill on Friday, Oct. 23, 2009, in Iowa City. Six downtown Iowa City bars are paying for two officers to work the Ped Mall Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to bar close, in response to the number of fights downtown. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

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By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa City police are cracking down on illegal behavior in the pedestrian plaza, more commonly known as the ped mall. The crackdown comes after the city received multiple behavioral complaints in the area from business owners and citizens.

On Wednesday, Iowa City police sergeant Denise Brotherton confirmed there has been a larger police presence in the area near the 100th block of Washington St., and officers are making more arrests and issuing more citations.

"We want families down there, we want our student population down there, and when there nuisance and illegal behaviors it's not an attractive environment," Brotherton said.

Wednesday afternoon a police officers patrolled the mall on foot. At different periods throughout the day officers stopped people from riding bikes and asked people to stop smoking, both prohibited activities in the area.

This week officers have already made three arrests for littering in the ped mall. One of the arrests included a charge for smoking in a prohibited area. Two offenders were listed as transient.

"We will give warnings, but sometimes we have to do other things," Brotherton said. "What you're seeing down there are a lot of people who have been given the warnings and the warnings aren't working."

Brotherton said the department is in no way "picking" on transients who frequent the ped mall. Anyone who smokes, litters or commits other offenses could be subject to arrest or citation, she said. Officers have also cited people for rollerskating and riding bikes in the past.

"It makes me angry because these people are citizens, and they're treating them as if they're not, it's like they're saying will you please step off the face of the earth because you're poor or you're homeless, that's what they're doing," said Libris Fidelis, a homeless veteran who believes the police are singling out transients.

Others who frequent the area disagree. Alameda Hendje, who comes to the ped mall throughout the week to work through legal issues with transient citizens, said it comes down to respect between the public and the police.

"You don't need to go to jail you know just follow the rules, follow the forte of the ped mall because everybody has rules to follow, and just obey what the officer is saying," she said.
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