U. City looks to WU for help with Loop security

| News Editor

As University City plans potential security upgrades for the Delmar Loop, the city is reaching out to neighboring governments and institutions for help, including Washington University.

A proposal fronted by University City Police Chief Charles Adams calls for closed-circuit television cameras on Delmar Boulevard in the Loop area and increased police patrols in the vicinity.

Also being considered by the University City City Council is a revised curfew for those 16 and under between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., seven days a week, unless they are on the Loop on business or accompanied by an adult.

The current curfew hours are 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays and midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends.

University City has asked the University for assistance both with planning the upgrades and funding for the cameras and overtime officer pay, according to Cheryl Adelstein, director of community relations and local governmental affairs at the University.

The Delmar Loop, with its restaurants, bars, shops, clubs and performance venues, has long been a popular social destination for University students. The American Planning Association recently named it one of “America’s 10 Greatest Streets.”

The University is concerned for the Loop and University City’s well-being in part because of the high numbers of students, staff and faculty living in University City and frequenting the Loop area, Adelstein said.

“[The Loop] is the downtown for the University,” Adelstein said. “We want our students to feel safe and comfortable in the Loop, and we want University City to thrive, and one of the ways that they do that is by having a successful downtown district.”

The biggest obstacle to the cameras and increased patrols is money, with University City still looking for funding sources.

The City Council will consider the curfew revisions later this month, but the cameras and increased patrols are not ready for presentation to the council. The Loop Special Business District, the University, the University City Police Department and other agencies are still working out the details of the upgrades.

Councilwoman Lynn Ricci emphasized that the University City government must spend responsibly. She said she hopes the University will contribute to funding the cameras and patrols.

“If we’re asked to consider it, our responsibility would be to be fiscally responsible and see how much it costs and where that money is going to come from,” Ricci said. “We’re protecting a lot of [Washington University’s] students and faculty. The Loop is heavily traveled by Wash. U. students and Wash. U. staff and many of them are also U. City residents.”

Officials said they do not yet know how much the upgrades would cost.

Ricci said that the extended curfew was recommended by Adams and the Loop Special Business District. Part of the impetus for the proposed upgrades, especially the curfew, was an influx of young patrons into the Loop last summer.

The large crowds have created a significant loitering problem, Ricci said.

“I had concerns about the curfew ordinance because it didn’t appear that that would really do anything, a one-hour difference,” Ricci said. “We’ve got groups wandering the Loop and doing things like stealing cell phones and just being disruptive, and this is just not appropriate. So if they recommend this change then I will support it.”

The proposal comes months after a series of car break-ins around University-owned apartments near the Loop in late 2008 and the Nov. 2008 murder of University City police Sergeant Michael King, a University alum, near the intersection of Delmar Boulevard and Leland Avenue.

The University doesn’t yet know how much of the upgrade costs it would absorb. The recent 25 percent decrease in the endowment in light of the global economic crisis, however, has forced the University to cut back on spending.

“I don’t believe we’re going to be able to positively respond to everything that they’ve asked for, but I do believe that the security of our faculty, staff and students and the safety and well-being of the University and the University’s neighbors will continue to be a priority for the University,” Adelstein said. “So I believe that we will try to find an appropriate and budgetarily responsible way to respond.”

Despite the issues in funding the cameras and patrols, Ricci said her highest priority is the safety of the city’s residents and visitors.

“If I had to prioritize on being a leader and running a city, my number one priority would be safety,” Ricci said. “Anything to keep our community safe is necessary in my opinion.”

Students say the security upgrades would be worth the costs. For Stephanie Miller, a senior who lives just off the Delmar Loop, not passing the measures would reflect poorly on the city’s residents’ commitment to safety and security.

“I don’t walk out there after 8 or 9 [p.m.] by myself like ever because I don’t think it’s safe,” Miller said. “If they didn’t get passed, it would be sad, because it would show that people don’t have a commitment to making their own community and their own area safer.”