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Oxford’s Downtown Square to become own police district

As Oxford’s population continues to grow, so does the number of people who visit the Downtown Square both day and night.

While most are there to eat, shop or just walk around and visit, patrol officers with the Oxford Police Department are also there, whether it’s handling traffic or responding to calls to local businesses during the day, or handling massive crowds during the weekend, particularly when the sun goes down.

According to OPD officials, the number of officers and hours spent on the Square has also increased.

During the 2016 fall semester, the police department placed 8-12 officers on the Square on Thursday through Saturday nights.

“These details began in mid-August and ran through finals of the fall semester,” states a report presented by OPD Maj. McCutchen to the Board of Aldermen last week. “These details picked back up as the spring semester began. We began to see crowds continuously grow as the year proceeded. We received many requests from business owners in that area for more police presence due to crowd and traffic issues.”

The workload started to take its toll on officers and supervisors as working these weekend details were in addition to their regular work hours, costing the department more in overtime.

McCutchen said OPD wants to make the Square area its own district, dedicated eight officers to the Square at night who will work out of the former Retired Senior Volunteer Program building under City Hall for filling out reports.

“We feel this will reduce over time, improve the quality of service, enhance community relations, especially with businesses and customers in the downtown area and provide safety and coverage to this area without reducing the patrol staff or requesting additional officers,” the report states.

The city is divided into five districts for OPD. The Square is inside one of those districts. OPD is suggesting making it its own district and officers who will handle all calls on the Square during their shift.

The Downtown District would be staffed by seven officers and one sergeant and their hours would be 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday.

A Start a Meet Me location will be established in the district for people who have separated from their group.

“We believe this will have an impact on sexual and physical assaults inside the district,” the report states.

OPD will utilize four Flex Unit officers and four officers who are currently in the state law enforcement training academy to create the new district.

“You need to have two officers working together,” he said. “They will be handling fight calls, disturbances — anything that happens in the downtown area.”

The addition of the new district will free up the patrol officers in the other districts to better cover their area since they won’t have to respond to the Square as often.

Since it’s an administrative move, the Board of Aldermen did not have to vote Tuesday to approve the new district; however, the board members and Mayor Pat Patterson appeared to be in favor of the change.