WOW 2014: New safety procedures yield mixed results

Samantha Pryor


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Historically, the start of a new academic year at Cal Poly causes a spike in criminal activity in San Luis Obispo.

According to a San Luis Obispo Police Department’s (SLOPD) media release, Week of Welcome (WOW) has shown significant differences in crime numbers.

From 2013 to 2014, fire and medical emergency incidents involving alcohol increased by 35 percent and fire and medical emergency incidents involving college students increased by 52 percent.

The number of minor in possession arrests also plummeted from 71 in 2013 to 39 this year. In an opposite situation, drunk in public arrests increased from nine to 22.

Changes in police coverage

To increase public safety and minimize the spike in crime, SLOPD implemented several safety procedures during WOW. For example, SLOPD doubled its standard deployment during nights of WOW.

According to SLOPD Capt. Chris Staley, there was a strong effort to partner with other San Luis Obispo entities during WOW, including the University Police Department (UPD), San Luis Obispo Fire Department, Sierra Vista Hospital and San Luis Ambulance.

“There was certainly more collaboration with Cal Poly,” he said. “This year is to a higher level than what we have done in previous years.”

In addition, SLOPD Neighborhood Outreach Manager Christine Wallace met with greek organization presidents prior to WOW.

“We wanted to make sure we reached out to the whole greek community and make sure they were aware of issues like the double fine zone,” Staley said. “(We) used it as an educational opportunity.”

The California Alcoholic Beverage Control also joined SLOPD and UPD during WOW to conduct plain clothes detail — when officers dress in regular attire rather than uniforms and report law violations. Before this year, the department had never used this tactic during WOW.

“We found other agencies that were using (the tactic) in their community,” Staley said. “We wanted to see how effective it would be here.”

The detail netted 22 violation. It allowed police to see activity they wouldn’t normally be able to observe in uniform, Staley said, and acted as an effective deterrent. SLOPD and UPD also combined patrols on foot and in vehicles. Most commonly, a SLOPD officer and a UPD officer were paired together in what is known as a party car to patrol the neighborhoods and respond to party complaints.

“We work really closely as far as putting our resources towards these things, and we will continue that when we have Halloween or the UCSB soccer game,” Staley said.

A previous version of this article stated SLOPD’s neighborhood outreach manager is Christine Walkers. It has been corrected to Christine Wallace.

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