Apr 152008
Authors: Phil Elder

One social evening, my freshman year, a few friends and I accidentally set off a smoke detector while … cooking a wholesome meal.

Less than three minutes later at least 10 fully armed units were screeching around the front entrance and storming the fortress with a passion and an energy that would rival Marine Force Recon.

Some praised this immediate response as a telltale sign of an alert police department and a safe learning environment. I recognized it as a symptom of an agency with a serious discrepancy between number of employees and amount of real work to do. However, I thought little of it until this last week.

Sunday night, at least 10 police vehicles were involved in a 45-minute goose chase trying to find some kid on a bike. Monday afternoon, I saw four CSU police officers viciously chasing an oblivious student riding his bike through the otherwise barren LSC plaza.

Finally, on the mile drive between my parking spot and my home, I saw four police vehicles awaiting speeders, another two who had pulled over speeders and a police camera van taking pictures of speeders.

Seven police vehicles, on a Monday afternoon in broad daylight on a mile-long linear route. I began to wonder just how much work the Police departments here have to do.

So I researched the amount of crime that occurs in this great city. I would like to frame my current use of the word “crime” as any action that actually requires police involvement, not dime-bag sales of grass or a freshman trying to sneak beer into the dorms. As I expected, crime in Fort Collins is minute and insignificant.

The amount of violent crime incidents in 2005 in the city was 413. The word “violent” tends to frighten some, so I will clarify that out of the 413, only two of them were real murders – the vast majority of the remainder being represented by drunk people fighting and throwing bottles. I would also like to elucidate that this number, when compared per capita to national statistics, is 45 percent below the American average for violent crimes in towns this size.

Property-related crimes regrettably seem to be on-par with the national average. We Rams are a thieving bunch.

The crime rate of the city, all-inclusive, stands around 3.3 incidents per 1,000 people. This rate is 25 percent below national average. Fort Collins is a very safe town.

So I understood why the job might get dull, but why are there consistently platoons of officers waiting impatiently for an MIP call or a hippie with a frisbee and a nickel bag? I began to research just how many citizens are employed by the illustrious Fort Collins Police Department.

The estimated population of Fort Collins is 131,000. We have 258 patrolling officers. Nationally, in medium sized towns, there are 1.9 police officers for every 1,000 citizens. This means that Fort Collins should have about 247 officers, which only places our actual number slightly above average.

However, we have the privilege of enjoying two police departments in one town.

The Colorado State University Police Department, with their 8.8 square miles of jurisdiction, employs around 95 officers.

This is not an official number because it is nearly impossible to find information either from their Web site or from their public relations department, but given their statistics from earlier in the decade this seems to be accurate.

This jumps our city’s police officer count to 353, skyrocketing our ratio to almost 50 percent above the national average.

So we have almost 170 employed officers that, statistically speaking, have little work to do. We’ve all seen symptoms of this – four cruisers rushing to the response of a noise complaint, six officers discussing the fate of the possibly drunk driver pulled over on Elizabeth, 10 officers savagely pursuing a kid on a bike. We are an extremely peaceful town excessively monitored by bored and armed boors behind flashing lights and shiny badges.

I say we send the excess to Colfax Ave. in Denver, where they might actually have work to do.

Phil Elder is a senior political science major. His column appears Wednesday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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