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All Quiet On The Nightclub Front
by Gilad Edelman | Sep 23, 2013 7:12 am
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Legal Writes, Downtown
Cops were everywhere. Fist-fighting, bottle-throwing, trigger-happy nightclubbers? Nowhere to be found.
That was the scene on Crown Street at 2 a.m. Saturday, the hour the bars let out in downtown New Haven—and, on other weekends, the mayhem tends to hit high gear.
A lot more cops were on duty than usual, in response to some recent mayhem that made headlines. Officer David Hartman (pictured) looked up and down Crown Street. To him, the sparse crowds drifting out of the bars were more reminiscent of a Sunday night than the aftermath of a Friday.
“This is the way it should be down here every night,” he said.
The scene isn’t that way every weekend night, of course. The previous weekend, closing-time shooting incidents marred both Friday and Saturday nights, including a shooting, numerous fights, and a gunshot fired from 15 feet behind one officer’s head. In response, the police announced they would increase the number of police officers patrolling the bar district. Rather than the usual six to eight cops, Friday night saw ten just on foot with several others manning bikes, motorcycles, and cars.
The patrol cops, along with agents from the Connecticut Liquor Control Division, assembled at the corner of Temple and Crown for 11 p.m. roll call. The first phase of the night, bar inspections, focused primarily on policing underage drinking.
Lt. Jeff Hoffman (pictured), the patrol commanding officer, reminded everyone what to look out for inside the bars: weapons, anyone involved in the previous week’s violence, and underaged kids holding drinks.
The inspections were mainly uneventful. In the first bar inspected, Lazy Lizard, police appeared to outnumber patrons. The third and last bar inspected, Empire (pictured), was bustling, and the police issued two citations for underaged drinkers. As the police phalanx moved through the dance floor, flashlights shining on driver’s licenses, the DJ exhorted the partygoers over the PA to cooperate.
Once the inspections were finished, the liquor agents departed, and police began the second phase of their patrol: looking out for trouble. The foot patrols broke into pairs stationed throughout the bar district, while the motorcycles and squad cars patrolled the surrounding streets, watching for drunk drivers. The crucial time of night would come at 2 a.m. when the bars closed. That’s typically when most of the violence occurs, as swarms of drunk partiers spill out into the streets.
As the hour approached, the police stationed cars near the busiest corners and turned on their flashing lights. Hoffman explained that the lights were a deterrent meant to “create the appearance of omnipresence” to people exiting clubs who might otherwise be tempted to act up.
When the clock struck 2, the cops had little more to do than remind stragglers that it was time to go home. The most obvious reason for the lack of drama was that there were simply not as many people out downtown as usual. Big crowds of course mean more potential troublemakers, and more potential confrontations. They also make it hard for cops to see what’s happening through the thicket of bodies. On a night like Friday, the sparseness gave the cops a clear view of the scene, and the departing club-goers a clear view of the substantial police presence.
It was less obvious what, if anything, explained the quiet night. Hartman and Hoffman suggested that the recent violence may have made people reluctant to go out downtown. Hartman also pointed out that as the school year proceeds, regular police inspections may dissuade underage college students from trying to drink at bars.
Another factor—perhaps the biggest factor—may have been that Pulse, a hip-hop club that has been the site of many incidents, including one of last week’s shootings, was closed for the night.
By night’s end, the final incident tally was modest. Apart from the two underage drinking citations, one man was arrested for repeatedly trying to sneak into Empire without paying, and one drunk driver was busted going the wrong way on George Street. (Saturday was busier, with more patrons at the bars. Police made a breach of peace arrest outside the Russian Lady. A drunk driver “creamed” a woman’s car door as she was opening it on Temple Street; police caught up with the fleeing driver and arrested him. No violence was reported.)
Hoffman said that the beefed-up patrols will continue for at least the next few weeks.
“We hope to get the clubs used to having police nearby,” he said, so that they take more steps to avoid problems. “Hopefully the owners start policing themselves.”
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Would it be crazy to assign randomly different closing times, say between 1am and 3am so that police officers could focus on one or two bar closings at a time? A little more creatively, you could have clubs bid for the right to the late closing times, raising a little money to pay for police presence?
All the “party-goers” were at Eli’s in Hamden. The place should have been shut down, way too many people.
Looks like Lazy Lizard is the “target” 3 articles in a weeks time…
It sounds like a temporary fix, which happens all the time after a shooting. It’s not a knock towards the officers because they do a great job regardless, the officers just do what they are told. Downtown is going to be quiet for a couple of weeks and then the city thinks the problem is fixed, then the city will not approve any additional overtime for the officers and THEN stop the extra hiring (stick with the bare minimum) and back to square 1.
I’m glad there are more cops, but it was a rainy night - probably had more to do with low attendance than the cops.
Yes, maybe not crazy, but not legal. The city or state for that matter can’t make establishments of the same type shut down at different times, you’d be unfairly depriving a business of customers. Not to mention by state law they can only stay open until 2am(well that’s as late as you can sell alcohol anyways, and clubs won’t stay open past then as they’d be running on full loss mode as alcohol makes up a good deal of their revenue), and no club is going to volunteer to close at midnight on a weekend.