Lafayette bar owners are being asked to pick up the tab for costly patrol details that help to manage and protect their large weekend crowds. City Police Chief Jim Craft met with bar owners last Thursday, informing them that weekend details around Lafayette’s bars are costing the department $26,000 a month – an expense that is no longer sustainable. The areas that have benefited from an increased police presence include downtown, the McKinley Street and Simoce Street strips and shopping center clubs The Plaza and Graham Central Station. “We want their input,” Craft says. “We want them to have a role in deciding how the policing will go.” Craft notes he has been in discussion with several bar owners about the issue over the past several months and that he is optimistic they will be able to reach an agreement. The bar owners are now in the process of organizing a committee to determine a plan. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for April 30. “I thought it was well received,” Craft says. “I had several bar owners tell me after the meeting that they intend to come up with a solution to the problem and that the detail will continue and they will pay for it.” Craft has proposed bars pay some type of fee to the city based on their occupancy rate.
Craft says for the past four years, the police department has been able to fund the details on its own due to a large number of vacancies within the department. Money for those positions was shifted into overtime pay for officers. But as recruitment has improved, (the department now has five vacancies, down from 20 last year) and bar crowds have grown, the department can no longer finance the extra workload. The department has already run through this year’s overtime budget. Next week, Craft goes to the council to request an additional $350,000, which will cover the department’s current overtime expenses through the end of June. Craft says the bar crowds, estimated to be about 5,000 people a weekend in the downtown area alone, constitutes what is known as an “unusual occurrence”, such as a festival, for the police department. “The problem is that it’s an unusual occurrence every weekend,” he says. “It really is beyond the scope and realm of our duties as a police department that we have to provide these extra services.” Craft says the additional security costs for unusual occurrences are typically passed on to the event organizers.