Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Special police detail seeks to curb dangerous behavior among college students

August 14, 2013


Lawrence always gets a little wilder around this time of year, as a new population of college students arrives and starts partying. But police here have organized a welcoming party of their own.

The Lawrence Police Department is deploying a special detail of officers this week to greet the influx of Kansas University students just arriving in town. The detail is tasked with curbing risky behavior such as drunken driving, public intoxication and jaywalking, said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman.

Police aren't saying the problem is unique to college students. But anyone who has been downtown, or near a busy bar elsewhere in the city, on a Thursday or Friday night during the school year will be familiar with sight of sidewalk melees or drunken people walking in front of cars. In one wild weekend in April, police arrested dozens of people for alcohol-related offenses, including 29 for drunken driving, three people for battery, six for open containers and two intoxicated pedestrians.

The department hasn't made public the number of officers in the detail, but it will be assigned to problem areas, including downtown, for several months. And officers will be more active in some areas than police have been in the past, McKinley said.

The officers may issue citations to those drunkenly walking into traffic, where patrol officers handling other calls didn't have time before. Any fights that break out in public are likely to end in arrests, where they might have been merely broken up before. Anyone walking around in public with alcoholic beverages, or behaving in a drunk and disorderly manner, could get a ticket, McKinley said.

Devoting a team of officers to this problem is a new approach for the department, McKinley said, and it may surprise some returning students as much as newcomers. For many students, Lawrence in fall means nothing but fun: new friends, concerts, and late nights on Massachusetts Street.

But there is a darker side to the party, McKinley said, that includes alcohol-related injuries and late-night robberies and assaults committed against young people who become easy targets on a walk home from the bars.

Lawrence has seen too much of that, McKinley said. The officers' goal will be stop dangerous situations before someone gets hurt, and to send a message to people arriving in Lawrence for the first time.

"We want to let people know that Lawrence is not a free-for-all place, where you can walk down the street with a beer, completely obliterated, and not be contacted by the police," McKinley said.

The police won't seek to stop people from having fun, or hassle young adults who happen to step onto the sidewalk outside their home with a beer, McKinley said. They will be looking for people who, often because of extreme intoxication, are putting themselves or others in danger.

"In some ways, we're protecting people from themselves," McKinley said. "We want people to come downtown and have fun, but also to be safe."


jafs 8 months ago


I just think it's more complicated than that.

And, that there are a number of other countries that offer better quality of life than this one, even if there aren't a lot of people immigrating there, for whatever reason.

I'll give you one more example, then give up. I've been researching Costa Rica a little bit, and it's incredibly attractive as a place to retire, even for a few years. But, it's very unlikely we'll do that. If you conclude that because we don't do it, it's not a great place to live, you'd almost certainly be mistaken.


ResQd 8 months ago

I've been here many years and know that Tennessee Street is a death trap when the students are back in town. I avoid it like the plague. The street lights are terrible and in the past, I've seen students dart across the street and cannot see them; they're almost a blur. In any case, coming home from work tonight, I spotted more than 3 police cars downtown that were patrolling the area. Kudos for them, keep those students in check and show them that outside of KU campus they cannot just walk in front of cars on their cell phones and pretend that they are invincible.


Ricky_Vaughn 8 months ago

Drunk driving is one thing, but harassing jaywalkers? Your tax dollars at work!


Scott Morgan 8 months ago

Been around here for 13 years and always wondered how the campus grew as it did. It seems so integrated with the city. For years I looked for a college area of bars and such thinking there had to be.

Many moons ago at a university far away there was campus, and there was city. About the same size as Lawrence.

If you partookith of drink or smoke one was warned not to wonder off into the small city. Or, at least be on the best behavior. On the other hand the dozens of university type businesses were most often free of what we called townies. One was given a bit more wide latitude in stupidity in the college area still today. Also, not much need to drive. Worked well.

Then natural progression of age, one migrated to the city for fun and relaxation. Of course with ego fired maturity.


agitatedbacon 8 months ago

I think the LPD should have zero tolerance for DUI.. as far as the other student behavior, a more lenient teaching based approach rather than a brutal crackdown would probably be more effective. I have found that most students are supportive of the LPD and that there's a greater level of community trust of the police among young people in Lawrence than in many other cities (especially the Johnson County suburbs). Destroying that relationship to crack down on jaywalkers and other alcohol related crimes that aren't disturbing others may not be the wisest course of action. On top of that, protecting people from themselves shouldn't be the main focus of any police force.

One of the problems with DUI enforcement and the reason that the police only arrest a few a night is that it takes a police officer s 1-2 hours to make the stop, arrest the offender, take them to the jail, and write a report. This takes the officer away from patrol and answering more pressing calls.

Some cities have a special traffic or DUI unit that only handles DUIs and doesn't answer calls. A patrol officer will make a stop and wait for the DUI officer to show up and do testing, arrest, etc. This means that the patrol officer only needs to wait a few minutes and then can get back out on the street. This seems like a good compromise that would allow more drunk drivers to be dealt with every night. If the police asked for a tax increase specifically to fund this type of service (rather than a broad "we need more officers"), I would vote in favor of it and I think many in the city would too.


msezdsit 8 months ago

Yep, lets crack down on those pesky college students. Especially that jaywalking.

I can see a concern for safety but this is a little over board. I think something closer to the way the police handle the crowds after a big KU tourney win would be more appropriate.


kernal 8 months ago

Keep in mind, most of the new incoming KU students are just three months out of high school, have never been away from home, no longer have to report home by curfew and their brains won't be fully developed until they're approximately twenty-four years old. Do they still need some guidence? Most of them do.

Warnings can be imparted as knowledge. For instance, a student is walking and texting, steps out in the street without checking for a green or red light or oncoming traffic (you're damn lucky I don't text and drive) and almost gets hit by a car and STILL doesn't notice?

Yeah, they need notices the first time around. Second time, ticket with a fine.


Lynn731 8 months ago

Ignorance of a law is no excuse for breaking it. Good job LPD. Barney said "nip it in the bud". This is the best time to get the word out, these laws will be enforced !!


Michael Rowland 8 months ago

I believe this is warning enough. They're made aware of the laws. If they want to be treated like mature adults then they should act like mature adults and not drink to excess or behave like this.


Steven Gaudreau 8 months ago

It's not a KU issue, it is a 18-21 yr old issue. Everyone likes to blame "rich college students" but the fact is that non college kids the same age have a much higher percentage of drug and alcohol abuse. Google it!


Robert Rauktis 8 months ago

Curb dangerous B.Y.U.?


Tanked 8 months ago

It has come to my attention that there is a epidemic in this country. Just a minute, I get a little choked up here. OK here goes! JAYWALKERS. Excuse me!!!!! The city of LAWRENCE with all its past experiences....ex.The sacking of Lawrence in Eighteen Sixty something. Why do we only have one armour Vehicle???? My God... Mr. City Manager. I can NOT sleep at night knowing my cross walks are being abused. A special Police force is not enough. Call out the Drones. Jaywalkers need to be on the FBI's most wanted list!!!! In the mean time my Brothers murderer walks free because there is not enough resources to investigate.


mikekt 8 months ago

I had someone in my neighborhood that I knew when I lived in OP, who's daughter was killed by a hit and run ( assumed to be drunken driver ) late one night in Lawrence Ks a few years back.

Hey, if they disrupt idiots who are drunkenly heading towards their cars to try and drive off into Infamy or to walk carelessly into traffic, that's fine with me .

More power to the cops for detaining the whole stupid crew of them .

1) nobody in or outside of that car will die or be seriously injured that night .

2) the fine for public drunkenness...... is probably less than a DWI, all respects.... & the charges are probably easier on the record, than drunken MANSLAUGHTER . Maybe somebody is doing them and society a favor ? .......and some just don't see it .........because they choose not to .

I never did ask my neighbor if his daughter was also intoxicated...........I might be straight up .......but I never really needed to go their.........for what purpose ?......their lives were ruined by a sudden event that was not advertised as being on TV at 6 & 10Pm, the day before .


toe 8 months ago

Government muscle has got to be used. Keep pumping cash into cops, and a new local military will be emerge. Welcome to the decline of America and the rise of the police state.


Centurion 8 months ago

No running with scissors while drunk or the cops will get you!


catfishturkeyhunter 8 months ago

What better way to make money than cuffing and stuffing wealthy KU students. They will look good running them down with the new armored personnel carrier too.


happyrearviewmirror 8 months ago

Given the tragic injury that happened last fall this response is somewhat understandable. However, better problem-solving responses than punishment usually exist. The U.S. does boast the highest incarceration rate in the world per a HuffPost article today. Using police officers as first-responders to every type of school and community problem imaginable definitely leads to criminalizing people and to a school-to-prison pipeline.

Personally, especially after the latest whistleblower and surveillance news leaks, I'd prefer to live in Canada or any other developed country that still somewhat values people over profits. It's no fun being bossed around by authoritarian liars.


nick_s 8 months ago

Recent armored car acquisition a mere coincidence?


1southernjayhawk 8 months ago

And to which countries might these young drunks emigrate to so as to enjoy a better and more just quality of life? Of the 60 plus I have been to, I can't think of one.


happyrearviewmirror 8 months ago

May I suggest using warnings liberally before pursing more punitive responses? The public deserves clear police communication that treats them like mature and responsible people who want to do the right thing. The U.S. police-state mentality has gone too far and is enough to make young people wisely decide to emigrate to another country to enjoy a better and more just quality of life.

Please warn people they could be facing arrest before simply taking down their contact information and sending them a snail mail notice to appear in court for arraignment.


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