State Patrol helps Appleton police boost summer enforcement
By John Lee
Post-Crescent staff writer
APPLETON — If you think there were a lot of extra police officers in the downtown area on summer weekends, you’re right.
Besides additional and overtime Appleton officers brought to the downtown entertainment district for enforcement, there were state troopers working overtime shifts.
The troopers concentrated on traffic violations, freeing Appleton officers to concentrate on the crowds, pedestrians, bar fights and disturbances.
Those combined efforts are helping maintain a “metropolitan Mayberry,” according to Jennifer Stephany, executive director of Appleton Downtown Inc., a non-profit organization representing downtown businesses.
“You feel you can go out and walk to your car and feel safe,” she said.
“It’s significant,” said police Capt. Pete Helein, who leads the downtown district. He noted that among other things, the state troopers made 31 arrests for operating while intoxicated.
“They (the state troopers) have really gone out of their way to connect and work with us, and it’s mutual. We go out of our way to help them when we can.”
Troopers have also helped Appleton officers with special events, fatalities and crash reconstructions, and crime scene reconstructions.
The help frees up Appleton officers, Helein said, especially with drunken driving arrests.
Lt. Nick Scorcio of the State Patrol’s Fond du Lac district said the summer assignments included all six of the troopers assigned to Outagamie County. He said it isn’t too different from other ways the patrol helps municipal law enforcement agencies, like at Green Bay Packers games, Oshkosh’s Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture, controlling traffic at professional golf tournaments at Kohler and Haven, or handling security for major trials.
“We’re always available to supplement local law enforcement as we have resources available,” he said. “We don’t make a practice of performing in municipalities unless requested by local agencies.
“Something like this is not typical as far as asking us to patrol the main downtown area, but there was need there.”
Scorcio said the detail also put troopers in a heavily populated area.
“Operating while intoxicated is one of the most dangerous things people can do out there,” he said. “If we can apprehend them before they get involved in a crash, then maybe someone’s life got saved.
“The chances of running into them are probably pretty good” on a weekend in a downtown area, he said.
He said troopers averaged one drunken driving arrest every 5.5 to 6 hours they worked the downtown detail.
Also, the visibility by local police and state troopers helps with what Scorcio calls the “halo effect.”
“If (people) know an area is actively patrolled by the police, they tend to not want to put themselves in a position where they will get stopped,” he said.
The OWI arrests take officers 90 minutes to two hours on average, by the time they make the traffic stop, process the driver, take the motorist to a hospital for a blood test and either find a responsible adult to take charge of the driver, or book them into jail, Helein said.
“Generally for us it’s a two-person assignment,” he said.
Helein said having troopers work in the target time of late weekend nights is also critical to APD’s efforts in the downtown entertainment district.
Usually, the APD has four officers on foot and two or three on drunken driving duty on College Avenue, but an arrest, fight or disturbance can use up all those bodies quickly.
“Investigating a fight can take three to four officers a couple hours to do,” with witness and victim interviews and possible trips to a hospital or jail.
But he said APD efforts in the entertainment district concentrate on several areas to keep the area safe for people.
“We’re all about the responsible consumption of alcohol,” he said. “First and foremost we want people to come downtown and have a good time.”
He said the Safe Ride program has been a positive initiative, and officers work to have a high visibility, walking in and out of bars, checking and scanning IDs, and talking to people.
Stephany said there is now a lot of one on one interaction between the police department and establishment owners.
“It has definitely improved in a lot of ways, and the communication between the establishments and the department is better, as well as the problems.”
John Lee: 920-993-1000, ext. 362, or email@example.com