September 20, 2002

C-Town Disorderly Conduct On Rise; Mayor Concerned

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The increase in illegal activity over the past five weeks, along with the excess over-time and disrespect that police officers and fire fighters have endured, caused Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen ’81 to call an “emergency meeting” with representatives from public safety departments and representatives from both Cornell and Ithaca College early yesterday morning.

According to Cohen, students have been breaking laws for under-age drinking, disorderly conduct, public urination and assault in much higher numbers than they did at this time last year.

“Quality of life” has become a concern because of students’ behavior at parties, according to Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services.

Law enforcement officials “need to intervene in a more aggressive manner,” Murphy said.

She added that in response to the meeting, there will be greater co-operation between the safety departments across the city of Ithaca, Tompkins County, and the two colleges.

“The level of activity and drain on City resources has reached a point where we have very serious concerns about the safety of both public safety personnel and the people they’re interacting with,” Cohen said in regards to the cause and urgency of the meeting.

Cohen said that last year at this time, City Police officers had worked less than 50 hours of over-time. This year, the 72 officers have “already surpassed 520 hours of over-time.”

The meeting was a starting-ground to reach a solution for improving the environment on the Ithaca College and Cornell campuses. Cohen said there are plans which deal with law enforcement and response, as well as education and awareness of students.

John Gutenberger, the University’s director of community relations, said that meeting attendees heard about the “severity of the problem” of officers’ stress.

He said one officer, who has a 16-year career in police work said the situation this year is the worst he has ever seen.

Gutenberger said officers have experienced negative treatment while on-duty starting with name-calling, but going as far as having bottles thrown at them and even having students urinate on them.

Those situations, combined with the overwhelming amount of over-time the officers are putting in, have created “stress and strain on them as individuals,” said Cohen.

The concern, Cohen said, is that “a well-rested individual can deal with stress a lot better than an over-worked individual.”

Furthermore, Cohen will send an e-mail to all Cornell students and possibly Ithaca College students, pending Administration approval. In the e-mail he intends to educate students about laws and responsibilities.

“People make better decisions when they are better informed,” he said.

“The Interfraternity Council invited the Ithaca police, Cornell University police, Building Department and Fire Department to speak with us at our meeting on Wednesday night. The City officials outlined their expectations of us, and provided suggestions to help prevent and mitigate problems,” said Jason Conn ’03, president of the Interfraternity Council.

The attention, however, is not entirely on the Greek system.

“The focus of these efforts is on the general student body,” Cohen said.

And, in fact, Gutenberger said, “the [Ithaca] community also has a responsibility to know where their youngsters are.”

He said that over the past few years, he has been hearing more about city high school students trying to attend college parties.

Murphy realizes, “the mass majority of students are behaving appropriately.” But, as Gutenberger points out, “a few people can cause a lot of trouble for a lot of people.”

Archived article by Rachel Brenner