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24 hours in Lawrence

Early morning in Lawrence

Police officer patrols city while others prepare for day ahead


Lawrence police officer Michael McLaren inspects criminal damage to a vehicle near the Kansas University campus on May 10. Such crimes are not uncommon in Lawrence, particularly during the late night and early-morning hours.

Lawrence police officer Michael McLaren inspects criminal damage to a vehicle near the Kansas University campus on May 10. Such crimes are not uncommon in Lawrence, particularly during the late night and early-morning hours.

May 22, 2007

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The unseen hours

Midnight to 6 a.m. with LPD officer Michael McLaren. Enlarge video

Thursday, May 10, has an unusual start for Lawrence Police Officer Michael McLaren in that people on the city's downtown streets aren't behaving unusually.

It's not often that McLaren roams downtown Lawrence after midnight in his patrol car and sees few people in bars, fewer people walking the streets and even fewer people misbehaving.

Shortly after strolling in and out of Free State Brewery and the Jayhawker for routine bar checks - which turn up nothing - McLaren climbs back in his squad car and peers at his laptop computer.

The screen shows the level of police activity going on around town; the screen is almost blank.

"Usually you have a whole page you have to scroll down to see all that's going on," McLaren said. "I can't tell you the last time it was this quiet."

Since coming to Lawrence from the Fort Hays Police Department nine years ago, McLaren has viewed the city through the windshield of his police cruiser.

He works the graveyard shift Tuesdays through Saturdays, a shift one might assume that nobody wants.

But McLaren says he prefers the early-morning shift. He says daytime officers in Lawrence spend much of their time responding to burglaries and car break-ins after the fact.

McLaren's shift allows him to fight nighttime crimes - drunken drivers, bar fights and other alcohol-related malfeasance - as they happen.

But not this morning.

He figures Kansas University students are studying as the semester draws near its end.

"There are a lot of people writing papers," he says.

It's about 1 a.m., McLaren's been working for two hours and he hasn't received a call for his response on anything.

Instead, he does what police call "self-initiated work," which consists mostly of strolling alleys for homeless people and drunks or other vagrants.

"There's always a chance you might find a break-in," he says and he walks the alley between the 900 blocks of Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets.

The slow night represents one half of the police officer's dilemma.

"If it's busy, my night goes faster," McLaren said. "But at the same time, you don't want there to be a lot of crime."

He moves on to more bar checks to see whether there any underage drinkers or other problems.

But there's hardly a crowd inside or outside the bars, so the checks pass quickly.

Outside Henry's, 11 E. Eighth St., McLaren spots a man with a 5-inch long rat on his shoulder.

The man explains he got the rodent at a pet store.

"Maybe when you think you've seen it all," McLaren quips, "you haven't."

A fellow officer pulls up along McLaren's patrol car and they chat about how slow the morning has been.

"Don't speak too soon," the other officer warns. "There's still 2 o'clock."

That's the time when the bar crowds spill onto the streets.

Sure enough, action picks up shortly after 2 a.m.

But it's not in downtown Lawrence, which McLaren usually patrols. He's called to help respond to an incident near the KU campus.

He pulls up to Mississippi Street near Memorial Stadium.

Police find three cars that have had their windshields damaged.

The owners of the vehicles - three men in their mid-20s - ask about what happened.

One man surmises the damage was done with a baseball bat. Another tells the officers that he saw a black Jeep drive from the scene.

Vandalism is a common crime in Lawrence, and one that's difficult for police to do much about.

McLaren takes down information for the police report he will write later on, and about 20 minutes after arriving at the scene, he's on his way.

"With criminal damage, where do you go from there?" McLaren says. "Hopefully, something turns up."

What turns up later on in McLaren's shift is a homeless man on a downtown sidewalk.

He is, as the city ordinance would put it, camped illegally.

The man has no interest in moving from his spot, prompting McLaren and two other officers to arrest him.

That's among the last things McLaren will do this morning.

Friday, however, with classes over, should be more eventful, he says.

"Tomorrow," he predicts, "will be a different animal."

¢¢¢

Like clockwork, Kirsten Krug awakens at 4 a.m., then again at 4:45.

It's not until a few minutes before 5:30 - when her actual alarm clock is supposed to go off - that she rolls out of bed, clicks off the switch and avoids the loud dose of the just-in-case 105.9-FM programming for yet another day.

Time to check the e-mail on her Motorola handheld, attacking the work day before most people have managed to stop snoring.

"I see if I need to fire somebody when I get in," she says.

As human resources director at a major manufacturing plant, a mother of two and wife of the owner of Lawrence's two Baskin Robbins stores, Krug figures she doesn't have much time to sleep.

There are employees to manage, breakfasts to be made and little details to tend to.

"I'm a morning person," she says. "Don't get me wrong: I would love to sleep until 11 some morning, but that's not real life."

After taking a quick shower, making a pot of coffee, loading laundry into the washing machine and settling in to read the paper, Krug has cleared her schedule enough to take on the next big chore.

Her youngest daughter, Payton, 3, soon will greet mommy with the same question she poses each morning: Is this a stay-home day or a school day?

"I have to break it to her: Yes, it is a school day," Krug says. "But we only have two days left to the weekend."

¢¢¢

Brad Stoll wakes up at 6 a.m. to the alarm on his wristwatch. The Lawrence High School baseball coach has a long day ahead of him.

High from a win the night before against cross-town rival Free State, he has a rematch tonight.

Stoll, 34, calls himself a "diaper-changing dad." He spent half the night in a rocking chair cradling his 1-year-old son Sammy, who was battling an ear infection. His wife, Emili, a teacher at Sunset Hill School, held Sammy the rest of the evening.

There is a 40 percent chance of rain tonight. "I'm a 'glass half full' guy. So, there's a 60 percent chance of sunny skies," he says.

Still, he turns on the Weather Channel on the TV in the family room off the kitchen. When Stoll walks out of the room, Jack, his 4-year-old, picks up the remote and puts on the cartoon "The Goodnight Show" on the Sprout network. Stoll quickly retreats to the family room and puts back on the weather. "Just a few more minutes," he says to Jack.

¢¢¢

Quail Run School counselor Harold Nelson is fast asleep from midnight until 6 a.m. His busy day is yet to start.

Comments

Eddie Muñoz 7 years, 7 months ago

Amanda Bigham is a strange name for a man.

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