Incoming students spur increase in safety measures

With this year's incoming class of students approaching the size of last year's numbers, local police departments are working to ensure the safety of students and visitors.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said there are more than 5,500 incoming new college students this year, as opposed to last year's record 5,782 students.

Columbia Police Department Chief Kenneth Burton said there would be a large presence of law enforcement with the amount of incoming students.

"There should be a safer environment," Burton said. "People will have a good time as long as they abide by city ordinances and regulations."

With the return of students, CPD and the MU Police Department are working to make things run as smoothly as possible.

"We work with the Department of Residential Life and other departments to ensure that we assist with traffic flow to make sure that people are able to get into the buildings," MUPD Capt. Brian Weimer said.

Weimer said larceny is the most common crime on campus.

"Throughout the year we promote crime prevention to make sure that students secure laptop, bicycles and other personal items," he said. "It is something that we do year round."

Underage drinking is another important issue for local law enforcement. Burton said many MU students are partaking in underage drinking.

"It is a small percentage of MU students and we are seeing a reduction in the issue," Burtons said. "Through education and enforcement, we have seen improvement but cannot turn a blind eye. We still have work to do."

Burton said underage drinking often leads to other issues and increased violence.

"If you look at fights downtown, they can be traced down to overcrowding, underage drinking and patrons being over-served with alcohol," he said. "Our prevention methods include frequent bar walk-throughs and communicating to students through the Wellness Resource Center and other university avenues."

Burton also said officers will be seen around town in different modes of transportation, such as bike or foot patrol. Officers on horseback might be seen as well.

"With these methods of transportation, we are more approachable for citizens and the element of surprise is there," Burton said. "People are usually looking for that white and black police car."

Burton also said with CPD's proactive approach, there has been a decrease in disturbance calls and assault reports since last summer, but there has been in an increase in liquor law violations.

"We want people to enjoy downtown, but it's got to be legal activity," Burton said.

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