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Authorities to prep for NIU homecoming

Published: Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – In preparation for Northern Illinois University’s homecoming festivities, police plan to increase staffing levels through the weekend and remain visible in the community to handle expected crowds.

DeKalb police Lt. Jason Leverton said a greater number of the department’s officers will be working this weekend, and outside agencies will assist DeKalb officers in various locations. The number of officers working will be similar to previous years.

Because the city tends to see a large number of visitors at on- and off-campus events during homecoming weekend, an increased police presence is beneficial, Leverton said.

“For us, it’s kind of you hope for the best, prepare for the worst,” he said.

To assist DeKalb, Sycamore police will give greater attention to Sycamore Road, Cortland police will cover the east end of DeKalb, Illinois State Police troopers will assist in high-traffic areas, and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office deputies will provide a few deputies to supplement patrol, Leverton said.

Tactical response units also will be ready in case large crowds become unruly, he said.

NIU police will primarily cover on-campus areas and events, said Sgt. Alan Smith. Officers will be handling events like the parade, bonfire and dances scheduled for this weekend.

Police typically deal with alcohol and drug violations, and fights on occasion – “just our normal calls, it’s just more people,” he said.

Streets around residence halls will be closed to traffic other than food delivery vehicles and Late Night Ride vans, Smith said, to prevent unwanted cars from parking outside residence halls and blasting music or causing other problems.

Late Night Ride vans will be in operation throughout the weekend.

DeKalb Fire Chief Eric Hicks said the fire department will have extra staff on hand tonight through Sunday morning, and other area departments will be notified of the events occurring on campus this weekend in case assistance is needed. Homecoming is one of the busier weekends of the year for local emergency personnel.

“Whenever you have more people coming to town, there’s always more incidents, more chance for accidents to happen,” he said.

The fire department has prepared an emergency action plan, which provides a response template if large-scale emergencies occur, and ran through an extrication and patient treatment and transport drill with other first responders at the university’s Convocation Center, Hicks said.

Past homecoming weekends have given police an idea of what to expect, Leverton said, and this semester has been busy for police thus far, with shootings, stabbings or robberies that have occurred during recent weekends.

He said police don’t want outsiders to see homecoming weekend as an opportunity to come to DeKalb and cause problems. From his experience, he said police presence does suppress negative activity.

“Most people will think twice if they realize the police are right around the corner, or there is heavy police presence in a certain area,” Leverton said.

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