- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Boulder police have changed the way they patrol student-heavy areas, combining two units and emphasizing education and communication over aggressive enforcement.

And, according to many officers, University of Colorado students and long-term residents, the fledgling “neighborhood impact team” is working. Arrests are on pace to be down this year in the targeted area. Police and students - particularly fraternity members - say their relationship is stronger than ever.

“I would say what has been most beneficial is that the entire brotherhood is aware what the police want and what we should expect,” said Max Raileanu, 20, president of the Boulder chapter of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. “That made our relationship stronger and made us, as college students, more comfortable with the police and kind of built that respect for one another.”

The neighborhood impact team was launched in January 2013, combining two Boulder police units: One focused on University Hill and the other on the Pearl Street Mall and downtown areas.

In 2013, the unit recorded 458 arrests, including 123 for felonies, and issued 1,738 tickets for municipal offenses, such as minors in possession of alcohol and open containers, according to Boulder police Cmdr. Jack Walker.

Through April 22 of this year, the team had recorded just 102 arrests, including 24 for felonies, and 261 municipal tickets, Walker said. Projected over an entire year, that would be a 27 percent decrease in arrests and a 51 percent decrease in tickets.

Walker said there has been some sort of team dedicated to policing University Hill since he joined the department 24 years ago.

But the neighborhood impact team - which has the staffing necessary to allow officers to not only serve as liaisons with fraternities but also sororities and downtown bars and businesses - so far has produced impressive results.

“It’s not just about working with the frats and sororities, but addressing the loud parties and other behaviors that make it unpleasant to live on the Hill,” Walker said. “It’s our goal to change that, and I think it’s working.”

Based on the recent observations of Monique Cole, a member of the University Hill Neighborhood Association, Walker may be right.

Cole said her neighbors lately have expressed fewer concerns about parties on the Hill.

At the most recent neighborhood association meeting, where attendees met Walker and the team’s sergeant, Barry Hartkopp, “There seemed to be a consensus among the neighbors that the noise was less bothersome,” Cole said.

“I just feel good about the team that’s in place,” Cole said. “They seem to have the right approach of educating the neighbors about the law and being more pre-emptive and trying to prevent issues before they escalate.”

Part of what makes the team effective, in Walker’s view, is the officers who are on it.

“Everybody who is on this team wanted to be on this team,” said Officer Ryan McAuley, noting officers bid for shifts. “It’s kind of fun to stay busy. The night goes by faster.”

Sgt. Hartkopp, who now leads the team, was an officer on the original Hill team in the 1990s. He said the department’s relationship with the fraternities was adversarial then, and officers could expect catcalls when they drove by fraternity houses.

After spending several years with the Boulder County Drug Task Force, Hartkopp took over as the sergeant for the reconstituted unit in January.

“Now, coming back to this unit and seeing how it is, it’s amazing how much better it is between the fraternities and the department,” Hartkopp said. “We take pride in our partnerships with fraternities, sororities and bars. My predecessor did good work.”

Marc Stine, Greek advocate for the Boulder Interfraternity Council, said since Boulder police launched a fraternity liaison program in 2007, there has been steady improvement in the relationship between the chapters and the police department.

Raileanu, the Alpha Sigma Phi chapter president, said the fraternity’s liaison officer, Mike Sweetin, and his partner stopped by the house early last month and spent about 15 minutes explaining expectations for conduct and then spent a significant amount of time answering questions.

He said his chapter has 45 members and holds social events a few times a month, during which neighborhood impact officers do regular walk-throughs. He thinks the increased visibility of police on the Hill may also have helped to temper negative behaviors in the area, he said.

“It maybe sets the standards a little bit more,” he said. “It’s kind of like, ‘We’re here; be safe.’”

Drake Duenas, 21, president of the Interfraternity Council and a member of Theta Xi, said he has heard from now-graduated fraternity brothers that the relationship with the police has steadily improved since the mid-2000s.

Combining the downtown and Hill teams has obvious benefits, in his view.

“What I think it does is it gives the police the full picture,” he said. “Rather than one team on the Hill and one on Pearl Street, they are able to watch over and enforce the CU students from when they start on the Hill and then go downtown and back.”


Information from: Daily Camera, https://www.dailycamera.com/

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