University Police officials yesterday decided to ease the burden extra nighttime coverage has placed on officers, giving them a greater say in how many hours and how many days a week they work. Captain John Richardson said yesterday that the change will not bring any reduction in patrols. He said the department will continue to provide double coverage in the night and early-morning hours. Police doubled the nighttime patrols nine days ago after a series of violent crimes just off campus. Last Monday night, two students were stabbed by a man believed to have committed as many as five stabbings in the University City area. The same night, an undercover University Police officer shot one of four men attempting to rob him and his partner. Police and other University officials said they hoped the increased show of force would both prevent crimes and reduce an atmosphere of fear on the campus. But both Richardson and Sergeant Thomas Messner said the increased patrols are starting to take a toll on the officers. Under the system used this past week, officers on the evening and early-morning shifts were forced to work an extra four hours a day, making for 12-hour shifts. "Twelve-hour days start to fatigue you rather fast," Messner said. "Anytime that you work 12 hours a day for a week, it does take a little bit out of you," Richardson said. "Let's face it. The fatigue factor does come in." To solve this problem, Richardson decided to let officers volunteer to fill extra shifts. Those who feel up to working the extra hours or want extra overtime pay will be able to work those hours, he said. They can choose to work extra hours on their shifts or come in on their days off. Messner said he expects that officers will volunteer to fill the shifts. But he said that if enough officers do not volunteer, supervisors will assign extra shifts. "It takes some of the pressure off the people who have families, who have commitments," he said. "It makes for less wear and tear on the officer doing it that way." Messner said the new system will be "more amicable to everyone." The sergeant said the move is not an attempt to cut back on patrols or to save money. He said the new system could end up costing the University more money if officers choose to work seven days a week. The officers' union contract calls for overtime pay for extra hours plus an additional premium if officers give up both their days off in a given week. It is not known how much the redoubled police coverage is costing the University. Senior Vice President Marna Whittington, who oversees University Police, has repeatedly declined to say how much extra the University is spending for the increase. So far, police said, the patrols seem to be working. "When we look at the statistics, it doesn't look like we've had anything major," Police spokesperson Sylvia Canada said. She said police have not had reports of any guns near campus and have responded to only one robbery. In that robbery, a student was robbed of $4 by two men who threatened him with a bottle at 9:50 p.m. Tuesday at 40th and Pine streets. "You can't say how many crimes you have prevented," Richardson said. "But it seems we are being somewhat successful compared to what happened in previous weeks." He said police are not yet ready to start scaling back patrols. "We're just going to have to wait and see what the future brings and if we feel like we have a hold on this thing," he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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