Staff Editorial: Whose streets?

A City Council bill to expand University police jurisdiction could be beneficial for students, who would further enjoy the safety net of the campus legal system.

The “Campus Police Force Cooperative Act 2002,” currently under review by a city government committee, would increase the University Police Department’s authority for arrests in public spaces within campus boundaries. Currently, UPD is required to call Metropolitan police for incidents including car crashes and noise violations even when they occur within existing UPD patrol routes in public areas.

The legislation would allow UPD to handle more cases, keeping more student violations in house to be dealt with by Student Judicial Services, not the government. This keeps students out of the criminal justice system and within the student judicial system, keeping minor crimes such as marijuana possession or public drunkenness off their records.

Community members, however, raise legitimate concerns regarding safety. This bill would put students’ and Foggy Bottom residents’ security increasingly in the hands of lesser-trained and unarmed UPD officers. MPD says it would keep city police presence in the community at its current level. In practice, however, this seems unlikely. Many fear MPD will systematically neglect Foggy Bottom.

MPD acknowledges they are understaffed, as are most city police departments. This bill could help them better allocate their resources by further using campus police forces that are privately funded and more focused on the community they serve, just as long as MPD does not give up on Foggy Bottom all together.

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