By Lawrence Journal-World, Sept. 12
This is not about picking on college students. It’s about making Lawrence a safer place for students — and everyone else.
Since mid-August, Lawrence police have stepped up their enforcement efforts in downtown and other locations that see an increase in activity — and, in some cases, poor personal decisions or behavior — at this time of year. Alcohol often is a contributing factor to the misbehavior and illegal activity that the police patrols are trying to curb.
From Aug. 14 through the Labor Day weekend, police cited more than 180 people for offenses ranging from possession of alcohol by a minor to using a fake ID. Fourteen people were arrested, including several on charges of driving under the influence. Police talked to one young man who was observed barefoot and inebriated, but let him go on his way after deciding he was capable of getting home without endangering himself or others.
In another case, a citation was issued to a pedestrian who crossed the street against the light and yelled at the motorist who was forced to stop to avoid hitting him. This, as any driver will attest, is a scary safety issue. Even when drivers are alert, pedestrians darting into traffic can have tragic results.
Police also are around to help people like the young man who was assaulted while walking home and a group of students who allegedly were attacked by a young man brandishing a length of bamboo. No suspect was apprehended in the first assault, but the man with the bamboo was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and consuming alcohol in public.
The idea behind the stepped-up enforcement is to set some expectations for behavior at the beginning of the school year, but the effort isn’t aimed at students alone. They are looking for anyone that is engaging in illegal or dangerous behavior — sometimes with students as the victims.
Kansas University’s student body president told the Journal-World he has heard complaints that students are being unfairly stereotyped as irresponsible and that Lawrence is issuing tickets to help pad the city treasury. Police don’t ask to see a student ID before they question someone or issue a citation, but the only way to try to change bad behavior is for it to have consequences. Imposing a fine or court costs — or in the case of DUIs, stiffer penalties — carries a much stronger message than a warning from a police officer.
For the most part, Lawrence police do a good job of balancing punishment and tolerance in a way that’s appropriate for a college town. Students shouldn’t be targeted, but they also shouldn’t be exempt from the laws that are intended to make Lawrence a safer place to live, drive and, yes, party.