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Raleigh cops take a hike

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Hillsborough Street, Saturday morning. I'm picking my way through the wreckage of the Hillborough Hike, N.C. State's spontaneous,mass bar crawl.

There's Ric, a street poet, sweeping some of the thousands of busted bottles into neat. little heaps. "Just keeping my little corner of the world clean."

From my fine little perch at Sad's, I'd had a fabulous view of the steadily growing, drunken, hollering throng busy "letting the pig out," as they say in Germany. It had been a doozy, reminiscent of the past when Hillsborough was in full roar--thousands of smashed college kids doing what they do--making a big|old mess. Cool, thought I, me being a fan of Carnival.

"Hey man,better watch that beer," I said to this frat kid standing in the street, beer in bag. "Cops are bad on public consumption," He swayed, cross-eyed, mute. He was just one of hundreds of drunken students packing the sidewalks--and scores staggering back, forth across four lanes of traffic.

Then it hit me--where were the normally on-you-like-a-cheap-suit RPD, then I remembered. That same day, according to The Technician, more cops than normal had been reallocated over to the Avent-West neighborhood to provide property value protection from evil-dewin, college kids and their parties--and the guards were no longer watching the inmates. Wow. No cops. Cool. For an experiment, I called 911, saying I was a neighborhood person.

"You have got to take care of this mess," I said to the dispatcher. "Someone is going to get hurt."

They never showed. How odd. I went home.

Turns out many of Raleigh's finest were on Western Boulevard for a DWI checkpoint. Capt. D.C. Poteat said a few officers were sent to Hillsborough Street. "How was it?" I asked. "Somewhat OK," he said.

Later, after I see Ric, I come across a telephone pole, broken, displaced a good foot. All of a sudden it isn't funny. Turns out during the Hike some kid had blown a traffic light, sideswiped an SUV running an estimated 60 mph, sending it careening into the phone pole. If the pole hadn't been there--crowded sidewalks, 60 mph--you can imagine what could have happened. Mercifully, there were no dead people.

There is so much squandering of scarce revenue on "nuisance parties" that a volatile, dangerous situation almost ending up in fatalities slipped through the cracks. What sorts of priorities are those? Property values over human lives?

Police work involves discretion. I've been in other cities during these types of circumstances, have observed the middle-ground, where the cops establish a presence to quell the most extreme behavior--and look the other way about the drinking business. No sense in starting a riot. But when there is no control, we see what happens.

Economic foces oblige RPD to opt for low-hanging fruit (loud parties), a real problem is neglected, and people almost died.

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