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Party busting causes a strain on resources

Ryan Scalise
contributing writer
By Ryan Scalise
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 9, 2003

This weekend in Tucson was typical: students were enjoying the pool, parties, bars, movie theaters, coffee shops and what have you. Everything seemed like a fun and relaxing weekend, save for the multitude of Tucson Police officers roaming around town hunting for off-campus parties, trying to bust under-aged drinkers.

Never in the last three years has there been such a visible presence of Tucson's finest actively interfering in one of the most common collegial activities party-going. In fact, they are putting such a strong focus on this, it seems like other areas of duty are being neglected.

This year TPD is taking a preemptive approach to driving under the influence and under-aged drinking off campus. Not only are police responding to noise complaints, they are actively and consistently looking for parties in neighborhoods off campus.

Their new party-busting strategy is called "controlled dispersal:" once a house party is identified and there is probable cause that minors are in attendance, the police surround the house in an attempt to stop people from leaving the party. The party effectively becomes according to TPD a crime scene. The police then start issuing tickets and taking people to jail when applicable.

The bottom line is, the more police we have looking for parties the fewer police there are looking for criminals.

For example, an acquaintance of mine had some people over to swim in her pool last Sunday afternoon. There were about 20 people there, at the most. The neighbors called TPD because the music was too loud.

TPD initially showed up with two squad cars and two officers, but eventually about six squad cars and roughly 10 uniformed policeman came to the house. The police checked IDs and issued tickets, but did not seem to be in any particular hurry; in fact, they seemed like they took their time dealing with the situation.

A better-known example occurred last weekend at Jefferson Star Ranch, when 125 people were cited and 57 put in jail for drinking at a party. This was a huge operation that consumed many resources. Two Arizona state penitentiary buses, UAPD, TPD, Liquor Board officers, the Pima County Sheriff's Department, the city court and city prosecutors were all involved in adjudicating the situation

Fifty law enforcement officers partook in this bust. TPD could not give a monetary figure for the total cost of the operation; however, it does cost $55-60 to book someone into jail, so based solely on these figures, the cost of the operation exceeded $3,200.

This is an unnecessary and ridiculous waste of police manpower and resources.

As reported in the Wildcat, Capt. John Leavitt, TPD's midtown division commander, explained the recent vigilance for parties: "We're doing this now because the community is telling us that this is what they want us to do."

But what about the other criminal acts and hazards to public safety in Tucson? Is the community ready to sacrifice TPD resources to break up a student gathering, instead of catching rapists, killers, and thieves? These crimes should be of far greater concern to TPD and the community than breaking up a few parties.

From Jan. 1 up until Sept. 2, there have been 150 forcible rapes, 22 homicides, 2,426 forcible entry burglaries and 3,509 stolen motor vehicles according to Tucson Police Department crime statistics in the City of Tucson.

The bottom line is, the more police we have looking for parties the fewer police there are looking for criminals, and the criminals certainly know that and will exploit the situation.

Perhaps students living off campus or anyone for that matter should have better communication with neighbors when having a party. Tell them that you are having people over, will pick up trash and will compensate them should someone damage their property. Provide some form of sober transportation and tell them above all else to contact you if the music gets too loud. Give them your home and cell phone numbers, too.

One final thought: make a call to or stop by ASUA and ask for the legal services desk. Ask questions regarding your rights, because the police know them and so should you.

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