In the name of safety

Police chief says arrests are made to reduce chance of harm in area

In+the+name+of+safety

Photo by FILE PHOTO

At this point, it isn’t exactly breaking news. But the question as to why is always a timely discussion.

Two weeks ago, Rehabs.com published a report stating UW-Eau Claire ranked second in the nation for on-campus drug arrests, according to 2012 data. This data measured universities per 1,000 students. Eau Claire was one of five schools in the UW System to rank in the top 50 of the report.

David Sprick, chief officer of the University Police Department, said it is important to note the report from the U.S. Department of Education includes both criminal arrests and ticket citations. He said of the 160 people cited, only 21 were criminal, and including both types of citations skews the statistics.

He also noted how the statistics don’t really differentiate between types of drugs. While many of the citations were from marijuana use, he said this too skews the statistics because recreational use of marijuana is legal in a couple of states.

Yet, these statistics do exist, which raises the question of police involvement on Eau Claire’s campus, community and region.

In 2009, the city of Eau Claire drew another top-10 national ranking for safest places to live. According to a report from Farmer’s Insurance in December of that year, the city ranked ninth in this category.

Sprick said the university and region holds a high standard, and citizens and students are quick to report something that would prevent criminal activity.

“Our philosophy, our approach is that hopefully by tempering some of this illegal drug activity throughout the whole region, it makes our county safer, our city safer and hopefully our university safer,” Sprick said.

He said more than half of the drug-related citations he and his department issue come from the residence halls, where they are usually tipped off by someone else in the dorms. The other half, he said, come from vehicle stops or something of that nature where they smell an odor that leads them to believe drug paraphernalia could be present.

Our philosophy, our approach is that hopefully by tempering some of this illegal drug activity throughout the whole region, it makes our county safer, our city safer and hopefully our university safer,”

— David Sprick, chief officer of the University Police Department

“It’s not as if our police officers were going through the halls and detecting this,” Sprick said. “We were responding to reports.”

Junior Taylor Gilbertson said he is somewhat surprised at how high Eau Claire ranked in drug arrests.

While he has never been arrested for drugs, he said he believes police officers in the community and university are quicker to respond to students.

“Even walking down Water Street, you feel sort of honed in on,” he said. “I think cops are definitely looking out for kids our age and keeping an extra eye on us.”

Gilbertson, however, said he always feels fairly safe and comfortable in Eau Claire.

Sprick said he sees students arrested more because it is the first stage in their lives when they become independent. However, he thinks Eau Claire students are vigilant and do a good job of alerting authority figures where suspicious activity lurks.

“Our campus, collectively, tries to send messages relative to harm reduction, whatever it might be,” Sprick said. “(That’s) sort of our approach, I think.”