IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Iowa City police department plans to continue using Party Patrols in order to take a proactive stance against loud house parties and other disruptive activity in neighborhoods this fall.
But with a limited number of officers, Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said just how effective the Party Patrol will be this year depends heavily on the amount of activity downtown.
"Downtown was calmer last year, once the 21-ordinance was into effect. You're always going to have problems and have people drinking and especially if you have people who are intoxicated when you have so many bars in close proximity," Brotherton said. "There's always that potential, and you need to be visible in those areas, but since it wasn't like Mardi Gras (last year), as it has been in previous years, we didn't have to put all of our late night officers there."
The department began using Party Patrols in fall 2010, in response to concerns from community members that partying activities would move into the neighborhoods as a result of the 21-Only ordinance that prevents underage students from being in the bars after 10 p.m.
Brotherton said officers typically go out in teams of two -- sometimes on bikes, other times on foot or in cars -- between 11 and 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Those teams, which vary in number depending on the demand each weekend, work to respond to house parties and other disruptive or disorderly behavior. On football weekends, for instance, Brotherton said there is typically more enforcement.
Following the implementation of the party patrol in fall 2010, the number of disorderly house citations issued by police rose in comparison to previous years. According to statistics posted on the Iowa City police department's website, a total of 273 disorderly house citations were issued in all of 2010, with more than half of them occurring after the Party Patrol hit the streets in August. Fewer than two hundred disorderly house citations were issued each year before that, dating back to 2004.
Last year, Iowa City police issued a total of 244 disorderly house citations. Brotherton said the increase is likely due to increased enforcement in the neighborhoods, and officers typically opt to give verbal warnings. However, when police don't believe a party will be toned down or stopped and things appear to be unsafe, she said, officers feel a citation is necessary to address the problem and prevent people from getting hurt.
"The whole goal is to respond to the neighborhood concerns, and when someone calls in with a loud party we may show up and it's just four people talking out on their deck, so just because we get called to a loud party doesn't mean you're going to get a citation," Brotherton said. "But obviously when something is so out of control and we receive so many complaints, that may constitute a citation, or, if we've been called there before, or if people refuse to open the door, or if they lie about who is there and things like that."
Brotherton said the Party Patrol is typically busiest at the beginning of the semester, when new students begin arriving on campus who aren't completely familiar with the rules. She added that things begin to return to normal as midterms approach, the weather cools off, and people become more aware of what is and is not permissible.
"This is a small number of the students who act this way," Brotherton said. "The majority of the students are respectful of the community, don't act this way, and are able to go to a party and go downtown and not have any problems. It is a small percentage that puts that (negative) image out there."
The department is also encouraging the community to report disruptive behavior, so officers are able to address it, by calling 319-356-6800.