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Archive for Friday, August 23, 1991

ANNUAL INFLUX OF STUDENTS SPURS PROFITS AND PROBLEMS

August 23, 1991

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Kansas University Police Chief Jim Denney has watched the annual cycle for more than 15 years: KU students arrive; police work rises.

Everything police must respond to, from burglaries to automobile accidents, increases when students converge each August on Lawrence.

"KU students don't come back in a vacuum," Denney said. "People who make a living or spare money stealing things are aware there is an attractive target group here."

A look inside the numbers shows that in the average July, about 95 crimes are reported to KU police. In the average September, the first full month of school, there are about 300 reports.

"Everything increases in the city. Maybe 40 to 60 percent, just as they come back," said Don Gardner, crime prevention officer for the Lawrence Police Department.

Denney said theft is the most frequently reported campus crime. Each fall semester there also are sharp increases in burglary, automobile burglary and auto theft.

"We've already had one attempted auto theft," he said.

GARDNER SAID students shouldn't leave valuables in their vehicles. He also advised people to be aware of their surroundings when they leave or enter their homes.

"If you see something unusual, call us. Don't try to tackle someone hiding behind a tree. Just call," he said.

Most thefts on campus occur in residence halls and parking lots, Denney said. Many take place in public campus buildings, such as libraries or gymnasiums.

"People put things down and walk away, assuming they will be there when they return. Most times they aren't," he said.

Shoplifting also has picked up since students started returning to Lawrence, Gardner said.

Sandy Perbeck, co-manager of Wal-Mart, 2727 Iowa, said business volume expands when students return, making it more likely that shoplifting occurs.

"When you get the amount of traffic that pulls through here, you don't know what's walking out the door," she said.

IN MANY WAYS, however, that volume is a benefit, local business people say.

"It's like having a whole week of weekends," said Ken Wallace, owner of the Jayhawk Cafe, 1340 Ohio. "Unfortunately, that only happens once a year."

Wallace estimated that his business this week is triple that of two weeks ago. But the usual problems with customer wildness have not followed the increase in volume, he said.

"I think the police on bikes have made a good face-to-face presence," Wallace said.

Students seem to be taking measures to ensure they get home safely, and the number of private parties has increased this year, he said.

J.R. Sutton, general manager of Molly McGee's, 2429 Iowa, said his business has increased "dramatically" in the last week. He said students were interested in more imported beers and bigger-sized glasses of beers, which offer "quality for the price."

Business also has picked up in stores around Lawrence.

"I think everybody in town knows what it means to the town," said Reed Peterson, manager of the Salvation Army Thrift Store, 1818 Mass.

HE SAID the store has sold an abundance of "stuff to furnish an apartment," such as furniture, beds, pots, pans and dishes.

At Seifert's, 821 Mass., store manager Morgan Wilcox said the store has had an upsurge in student and parent shoppers. Coats and sweaters were among their best sellers, she said.

Jeff Guthmiller, a sales clerk at Field's, 712 Mass., said, "The past week has really been busy. It will probably taper off after Saturday."

Classes begin Monday at KU.

Guthmiller said students were interested in black and white pictures, such as romantic scenes and Ansel Adams landscapes.

The hot items at Sunflower Surplus, 804 Mass., have been shorts, Frisbees and "bicycles by the ton," said Sharon England, store manager.

TRAFFIC enforcement becomes more difficult for campus and city police about this time of year.

"Obviously, there are more accidents," Gardner said. "I was on 23rd Street on Monday. My God, it was bumper to bumper."

He said accidents increase because Lawrence residents are used to summer driving conditions, when the streets aren't as crowded, and students new to town may be lost.

"If everybody would just be alert and courteous and look out for each other, things would be much better," Gardner said.

Denney said the most common campus locations for a crack up, outside of parking lots, are on Naismith Drive at Crescent Road, 15th Street and Sunnyside Drive.

Gardner advised joggers to run in groups for safety reasons. It isn't smart to run alone at night, he said.

The good news for the 36-member KU police force is that for the first time in 15 years there are no vacancies on the force at the start of a school year, Denney said.

THE LAWRENCE Fire Department also feels the effects of KU students' return. The number of false alarms usually increases this time of year.

And on Tuesday, firefighters rescued 17 people who were trapped when an elevator in Ellsworth Hall stopped. The occupancy limit in the elevator is six, according to Fred McElhenie, associate director of KU student housing.

McSwain said firefighters were called at 8:47 p.m. and arrived five minutes later. It took another 16 minutes before the people were out of the elevator. And the chief said he didn't know how long people at Ellsworth had waited before calling the fire department.

"They had 17 warm bodies on there," McSwain said, adding that the elevator froze because it was over capacity.

Despite the elevator incident, the start of the 1991-92 school year has been comparatively quiet, in McSwain's view.

"It's nothing extraordinary this year," he said. "We just hope winter comes quick.''

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