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Students discuss police raids at forum, not neighbor relations

MELISSA HALTERMAN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Katy Hartley, a pre-business sophomore, asks a question last night at the neighborhood forum in the Harvill building. The forum was held to address concerns of students and residents living in neighborhoods around the university.
By Melissa Wirkus
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, February 4, 2004
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Although students got complaints off their chests at a community relations forum last night, few believed anything would change.

The forum, sponsored by ASUA, gave students a chance to ask police and campus officials questions.

A panel of three police officers and campus officials, including Melissa Vito, the dean of students, hoped the forum would be the first step to opening dialogue between themselves and the students, something rarely done in the past.

"I wanted to start this as a jumping-off meeting," said Jaime Gutierrez, assistant vice president of community relations. "We want to work with you guys to solve these problems."

But only two neighbors showed up to the forum, and they said they have no problems with their student neighbors.

"I've never called police on a vandalism, trash or noise violation," said Steve Holmes of Rincon Heights, a neighborhood near North Cherry Avenue and East Sixth Street. "I'm just trying to live my life and get along with my neighbors."

Most students walked away feeling that problems between students and neighbors weren't going away.

"I think it was helpful for them to hear what we had to say, but nothing really changed," said Tara Mason, pre-business freshman. "It helped open the doors to move the community and police, but the issues are too big to change."

The police officers who were at the forum acknowledged that little would be accomplished with the dialogue.

"There is always going to be a fundamental disagreement between police and college students, that's just the way it is," said Officer Mike Garigan of the Tucson Police Department.

There is always going to be a fundamental disagreement between police and college students.

- Mike Garigan
Tucson Police Department officer


Nick Bajema, one of the panelists and an ASUA senator, said part of the problem is that

neighbors have inaccurate perceptions of college students.

"Neighbors have a preconceived notion of 'Animal House,' when they think of college students living off campus," he said.

Vito offered suggestions to students in the audience to help them get along with their neighbors.

"Students need to figure out what is important to neighbors by doing things such as clean-ups and planting trees," Vito said.

After the panel spoke, the floor was turned over for student questions, and the discussion quickly changed from community relations to the police's party raids.

Most of the approximately 30 students at the forum were members of the greek community. And many voiced concern that they were singled out by the police raids that took place last semester.

In October 2003, 36 students were arrested on a party bus coming from a Gamma Phi Beta sorority date dash.

"We were not aware of any time when we stopped a bus when we didn't have grounds to do so," said Officer Mike Pryor of TPD.

Last semester, officials from TPD said the raids were justified to stop the violence that often takes place when people drink too much.

"Our charge here is to provide for your safety, and underage drinking has proved to be a very unsafe activity," said UAPD Chief Anthony Daykin.

Students said they were concerned that the police were spending too much time targeting underage drinkers, and not enough on other crime issues in Tucson.

"If we can reduce the number of underage drinkers, we can have more officers fighting crime," Pryor said.

The forum was a good starting point, allowing students to speak directly with officials in a respectful manner and get answers to questions never discussed openly, said Sara Birnbaum, ASUA senator and forum coordinator.

One neighbor told Birnbaum he wished she had advertised the forum more to neighbors.

President Peter Likins appeared at the end of the forum to listen in on what the students had to say.

Neighbors have complained that Likins and UA officials should do more to encourage students to respect their neighbors.

Kathleen Dunbar, city councilwoman for Ward 3, has proposed extending the UA Code of Conduct to students living off campus to foster better student-neighbor relations.

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