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Criminal defense: Iowa university campuses patrolled by police

Iowa is home to some of the nation's premier educational institutions, and Iowa law enforcement agencies work hard to promote campus security and safety above all else. The problem, though, is that some students might rightfully be concerned that the presence of so much law enforcement can be a distraction and a source of tension at a place where students should be focused on personal growth and education.

A recent study by the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that the police presence at campuses nationwide continues to increase. In addition to their own security force or campus law enforcement agencies, a growing number of universities are relying on local police to patrol their grounds. A whopping 92 percent of public universities hire police officers, and almost all of them are armed with firearms and other implements such as a baton and pepper spray.

The statistics show that an increased police presence on campus has played a part in the reduction of the number of violent crimes and property crimes in and around college campuses, but these drop in these types of crimes can also be attributed to other safety measures, including the use of mass notification systems by text and other means. When it comes to safety, campus connectedness and the spread of information can also be powerful tools.

It is certainly good news that violent crime and crime in general on campuses seems to be decreasing. The concern is, though, that too much law enforcement presence can stifle the environment of learning and self-expression that universities pride themselves on. And, not surprisingly, too many officers with too much time on their hands can certainly lead to too many unnecessary false allegations and arrests. From a criminal defense standpoint, there is certainly a downside to having too many police in any particular area. It will be interesting to see how Iowa campuses weigh their security and law enforcement needs against the need for an enjoyable and open campus atmosphere now and in the near future.

Source: BJS.gov, "Campus Law Enforcement," accessed on March 15, 2015

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