As Dakota Days 2012 moves into the weekend, police forces around the area are preparing for the high intake of traffic expected to hit Vermillion for the homecoming celebration.
University Police Department Lt. Dallas Schnack said D-Days is the busiest time of the year for all officers on staff.
“It’s important that we’re prepared for when it rolls around, because it is 48 hours of constantly being on your toes, and it’s nutty,” Schnack said.
The Vermillion Police Department also extensively prepares for D-Days, and as Chief of Police Matt Betzen said, the homecoming event draws crowds from an array of regions.
“D-Days is a mecca for almost every young person in the four-state area,” Betzen said. “It’s like spring break where people want to come and party, except in October.”
Preparations for the event begin far in advance, with staff scheduling and location points among the top priorities. UPD said they will add extra officers to help patrol.
“For Dakota Days this year we are bumping up the numbers (of staff),” Schnack said. “We’re trying to get away from officers patrolling on the perimeters of campus, and being more active on campus with all the foot traffic going around.”
Schnack said he has noticed an increase of foot traffic around campus this semester, which is one of the reasons more staff will be patrolling on foot and on bicycles.
“This year we’re going to put a lot of focus on officers out on bike and on foot,” Schnack said.
Because alcohol citations have tripled from 2011 to 2012 so far, underage consumption of alcohol is a major concern for both UPD and VPD.
“Dakota Days is always a high alcohol volume issue, and basically in the past the number of alcohol violations correlates more to the number of officers available,” Betzen said. “This year we worked hard to make sure we have plenty of staff, and we’re probably going to have more staff this year than we have had in the foreseeable past. “
In an effort to combat the dangers of excessive drinking, USD and Sanford Vermillion Medical Center will be partnering to operate an intoxication center where people are encouraged to go and sober up before trying to return home. The center will be located in the old Vermillion clinic, across the street from the hospital.
Like UPD, VPD will increase their patrolling staff to 23, with four of those officers coming from Yankton. The South Dakota Highway Patrol and Clay Sheriff’s Department will also be visible around Vermillion.
Both Betzen and Schnack said visibility is very important at an event like D-Days.
“We have to be out early so when people go out they can see us and go, ‘Look, UPD is out walking around,’ “ Schnack said. “We don’t want anyone to think we turn our backs during these three days.”
Other resources police officials will make use of include a portable security camera system from the Department of Criminal Investigation, which will be set up in critical areas, such as downtown Vermillion, and investigative crime teams who will be out tracking illegal activities.
While police officials are out patrolling to keep the public safe and make sure nothing illegal occurs, they cannot get to everything Schnack said.
“We want to deter them. It’s not our job necessarily to catch everybody who breaks the law, but it’s also our job to deter him or her from breaking the law,” he said.
Dakota Street is one of the most prevalent party locations around campus, and Schnack said they will be taking preventative measures to warn residents in that area about the repercussions of providing alcohol to minors.
“We will be doing knock and talks to houses that have been a problem in the past and warn them beforehand because they won’t get a warning since they’ve already been a problem,” he said. “A lot of those houses have been warned, but they just continue to live that lifestyle.”