Police officers in Tempe are gearing up for the new school year.
Officers began increasing patrols during the first week of August looking for traffic violations around elementary, middle and high schools.
Now the focus will shift slightly to coincide with the start of the fall semester at ASU.
Operation Safe and Sober will have officers saturating Tempe on the lookout for out-of-control parties, people driving under the influence and minors consuming alcohol and even checking in with registered sex offenders to make sure their information is up-to-date, Tempe Police Sgt. Mike Pooley said.
Pooley said the ramp-up in police presence is part of the department’s attempt to send a strong message to new students.
“For the first couple months of the school year, it seems like our calls for service go up,” he said. “So we feel this operation, Safe and Sober, is going to be able to go out … and we’re going to really try and attack these trends.”
The operation will involve some officers working during days off, Pooley said, but it will also include help from agencies across the Valley thanks to a grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
“Our night motors are going to be out here with a DUI task force with officers from all over the local agencies,” Pooley said. “We got people from MCSO, Scottsdale PD, Gilbert PD, Mesa PD all coming out here to help with DUI enforcement.”
The ASU Police Department will also assist with this enforcement, Assistant Police Chief Jim Hardina said.
“We have officers that participate in the party patrols,” he said. “So we’ll also have four officers on the weekend riding with Tempe officers working the parties and those kinds of things around campus.”
Hardina said his officers will focus on traffic violations, aimed mostly at pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Typically, we have every year someone on a bike hit by a car or a pedestrian hit by a car, and it’s almost always the pedestrian’s or the bicyclist’s fault, and it’s typically a right-of-way violation,” Hardina said.
Hardina said officers will use the first week for warnings and passing out informational flyers, but then officers will begin handing out citations.
For alcohol, though, strict enforcement begins right away.
“We enforce immediately,” Hardina said. “We have our youth alcohol detail (that) will be out the first couple weekends of school and plain-clothes officers in and around the resident halls.”
Pooley said Safe and Sober includes education in addition to party patrols, DUI enforcement and the strict focus on alcohol laws.
The Tempe Police Department’s Downtown Unit will be heading to local bars to educate workers on how to spot fake identification and inform them about alcohol laws, Pooley said.
“Every year, it seems like they get new staff at these bars so our bike squad goes out, they educate them and make sure they understand the current laws,” Pooley said. “(We want) to build that relationship, so they don’t feel they’re doing something bad by calling the police.”
Part of the education process is also about teaching the students about alcohol, laws and safety.
Detective Jeff Lane with the Tempe Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit said he will be out with officers over the next two weeks meeting with fraternities and sororities to educate them.
“We’re going to actually talk to all the fraternities (and sororities) in small groups and then in a larger group to talk about working with them (and) not against them,” Lane said. “How they can call us ahead of time, getting the proper permits if they’re going to have a party and doing the right thing.”
Detective Dan Brown, also with the Crime Prevention Unit, spent Saturday at ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena meeting with students and parents during move-in to answer questions and pass out information on everything from bike safety and registration to avoiding sexual assault.
“This is our biggest program of the year, Safe and Sober,” he said. “We’re just one part of it doing the booth today. This is a great opportunity to speak with the parents.”
Tempe Police is not the only agency readying itself for the new school year and the influx of new students.
In a statement, Phoenix Police Lt. Jeff Lazell said his Downtown Operation Unit, which oversees the Downtown campus, will provide public safety talks, education on traffic and jaywalking enforcement and some drug recognition training for ASU staff.
Each campus has its own issues, so campus police will try to tailor enforcement to each campus’s individual needs, Hardina said.
Operation Safe and Sober went into full swing on Aug. 15 and will run through the end of the month.
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