OPD wants to make Square safer, lighter

Published 5:01 am Thursday, September 7, 2017

On any given night, Oxford Police Chief Joey East estimates there are about 2,500 people on the Square with that number increasing to 6,000 to 10,000 on home football game weekends.

“The current main concerns are for the management of safety as it relates to overcrowding in a small area and pedestrian safety,” East said Tuesday.

OPD has recently implemented additional safety protocols in the downtown area, according to East that includes adding an additional dispatcher dedicated to a second channel to handle downtown area calls; closing certain streets to vehicle traffic on the Square as deemed necessary due to large crowds including Jackson Avenue East and Van Buren Avenue; continue working with Alcohol Beverage Control and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office to conduct compliance checks; designated a quick response team for a large scale spontaneous disruption; continue working with the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department to use their prisoner transportation van to transport several people at once to reduce officers spending time driving back and forth to the detention center and creating a centralized safe meeting location for visitors to the Square, called OPD Safe Site, located in front of Visit Oxford on Jackson Avenue East.

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“We’re going to promote that for people to use and say to each other, if we get separated, meet me at the safe site,” East said. “We generally have officers in that area now.”

East said he is continuing to meet with restaurant and business owners around the Square to create additional policy and ordinance changes including better enforcement of the city’s occupancy loads.

Additional changes East said he would like to see include the city installing flashing crosswalk signs at busy intersections on the Square; improve lighting around the downtown area in alleys and parking lots; remove diagonal parking on 10th Street for pedestrian safety and install more up-to-date security cameras around the Square.

“We have a significant number of cameras up now but they’re a little older,” East said. “We’d like to get some newer, better zoom cameras where an officer can be watching potential problems areas and sending officers there.”