Lafayette

Nov 2, 2010 2:20 AM by Jim Hummel

Policing Downtown on the Weekends; From Roll-Call, to Last Call

Tuesday night, the Lafayette City-Parish Council will once again consider final adoption of the so-called "go cup" ordinance. The proposal would ban the possession of open alcohol containers and public consumption of alcohol in the downtown district, the Simcoe-Surrey Street corridor and the McKinley Street Strip.

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft has been among the biggest supporters of the ordinance. Speaking before the council back in September, Craft said the ordinance would help restore law and order downtown. He said out-of-control crowds on the weekends have overwhelmed his officers patrolling Jefferson Street.

With that in mind, we at KATC wanted to see what Craft was talking about. Just what are the issues officers are dealing with on the weekends? The Lafayette Police Department gave us an opportunity to see for ourselves. Our crew shadowed officers from roll-call to last call.

Our night downtown was the Saturday night of UL Lafayette's homecoming. We met up with Sergeant Chris Trahan at 10:00 p.m. just a few blocks away from Jefferson Street for the roll-call. With large crowds expected that night, 24 officers and 4 sheriff's deputies would be patrolling the downtown area. As shift-commander, Trahan gave his officers their marching orders.

"Basically we're letting them know what to expect and what kind of crowd is coming downtown," said Trahan.

By 10:30 all the officers have been briefed and it was time to get to work. They head to Jefferson Street, where barricades are put up along side streets, and Jefferson is made a one-way to keep traffic moving.

Shortly after 11:00, the crowds begin to grow; officers are standing by.

"At any given time, something can break out and we just have to respond to it," said Trahan.

Just after midnight, a bar fight in the 300 block of Jefferson required police had to step in, several people were arrested and that wasn't the first fight we saw. Around 1:00 a.m. another fight in the same area required an paramedics to evaluate those involved; no one was seriously injured, but arrests were made. Sgt. Trahan says breaking up fights is nothing unusual for the officers working the downtown district on the weekends.

"We don't know where it's going to happen, but at some point in time, it's going to happen and we've got to be ready for it," said Trahan.

Throughout the night police typically monitor the crowds but when 2 a.m. rolls around, their focus is entirely on crowd control as hundreds of bar-goers spill out onto Jefferson Street. Usually by 2:20 a.m. a majority of the crowds have moved on and Trahan says as usual, there are a few stragglers.

"You're going to have that one percent at the end of the night, they're full of alcohol and it's kind of overwhelming at times, but as time goes on we finally get them moving," said Trahan.

Sgt. Trahan is no stranger to the weekend shift downtown and he agrees with Craft that officers do need some sort of help. Whether the go cup ordinance is the answer or not--that will be decided Tuesday by the City-Parish Council.

Jim Hummel

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