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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Downtown needs more law enforcement

    Bars downtown are selling more than alcohol and cigarettes these days. For $10, not only can you get wasted, but you can also get shot in the gut, pelted with exploding glass shards or knifed to death.

    It’s not often, but it does happen. I was reminded of Congress Street’s violent history Friday night when I pulled up to flashing police lights and emergency tape blocking the road. Apparently, one of the bouncers on Congress Street was sent to the hospital after being stabbed by a patron. This was the rumor that was going around, of course, while everyone continued to drink and coat the front patios with tobacco smoke. But a disturbing thought crossed my mind while viewing this controlled mayhem: This was the first time I’d seen a police car on Congress Street since, well, last time I almost got shot.

    About a year ago, my friends and I were standing in front of Hotel Congress after the bars let out, when a fight broke out in front of Sharks Bar down the street. We didn’t think much of it, until four or five deafening blasts pierced the air, and the front window about 10 feet away from us was shattered into blistering fragments. In a matter of seconds, the area was empty.

    When the police got there about 10 minutes later, they were able to confirm the fact that my friends and I were almost killed. They determined that the shots had probably come from the parking lot, but all of the suspects were too far away to catch. Later, a bouncer told me this wasn’t the first time all of this had happened.

    In the last six months, there have been nine recorded cases of aggravated assault (not including those against a police officer) on Congress Street alone, according to the Tucson Police Department. This is compared to 12 cases on Fourth Avenue, where on weekends the emergency flashers light the area better than streetlights. Last March, there was a drive-by shooting on Congress Street, and there have been two bomb threats in 2008 alone.

    If he were alive today, John Dillinger would have been proud. Not just because of the crime, but because you can get away with it. Perhaps it’s because of the transportation obstacles created by the underpass construction, but Congress Street is looking like a ghost town while Fourth Avenue is a shanty town.

    But there are still people down there, just not law enforcement. In the space of just a few blocks, Congress Street has eight different bars that each attract a sizeable amount of bodies and confrontations. And I don’t think it’s reckless to say that at least one of them is just as dangerous as North on Fourth, which on a typical Friday night garners at least four cop cars alone.

    Police officers parked outside of bars don’t always deter crime, but they can respond better when crime occurs. Maybe if there were more than one patrol car there during the last bomb threat at Hotel Congress, they might have figured out why hundreds of people were forced to throw down their Bloody Mary’s and were kicked off the property. Or at the least, they could have exposed it as a farce before the problem escalated.

    And don’t tell me it’s all about resources. Last time I checked, Tucson police officers had more than enough time on their hands. This became extremely apparent last week when five cars showed up to harass a homeless man on University Boulevardð, which only has four bars.

    Cop #1: “”Hey there, buddy. We heard you’ve been messing around by those bike racks. Did you know that’s university property?””

    Guy in front of Fuku Sushi: “”Yaw.””

    Cop #1: “”It’s against the law to trespass on university property. We’re allowed to kick you out when we see you there.””

    Guy: “”I’m not on university property. I’m in front of Fuku Sushi.””

    Cop #1: “”Well I guess you’re right. I’m gonna let you by this time, and give you a warning.””

    Cops #2, 3, 4, 5 and 6: “”Yeah!””

    This scene sounds ridiculous, but it’s literary canon compared to the disorder that often goes unwatched downtown. There’s a whole world of danger past that heaping mound of dirt, and the police force still seem intent on ignoring it. This weekend’s apparent stabbing never made headlines, but if cops continue to make tardy and mostly ineffective responses to the myriad of similar situations, the next one will.

    For now, it’s nice to be able to have a drink without the looming force of the enforcers breathing down your back, but it’s getting to a point where I’m more worried about turning around and finding a razor blade there instead. When that happens, I’ll have to pay for a lot more than $10 just to get drunk.

    – Andi Berlin is a journalism senior. She can be reached at

    letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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