LAFAYETTE — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and city police departments have restarted a program that teams officers for patrols off-campus where college students gather.
CUSP — City and University Safety Program — was started by ULL’s Student Government Association as a way to provide more safety for students when they’re off campus.
The program has been discussed since September 2010 and officers started patrolling in April 2011, campus police spokesman Sgt. Billy Abrams said.
But staffing problems arose in November, during the fall semester, and the patrols were stopped, Lafayette police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said.
As of last week, the police departments are trying again.
On Wednesday, ULL officer John List and city Cpl. Matthew Benoit climbed into the specially marked CUSP vehicle and started patrolling.
“We covered a lot of ground,” Benoit said Thursday. “We were nonstop all night.”
The List-Benoit team patrol off-campus areas such as Gerard Park, the McKinley Street strip of nightclubs, downtown, apartment complexes, the officers said before they pulled out of the Hebrard Drive parking lot of the ULL Police Department.
“Having an officer from both departments kind of keeps (students) on a straight line,” Mouton said.
Soon there will be another CUSP patrol that links ULL with an outside agency, Abrams said.
He said ULL would partner with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office to provide another patrol team when a campus officer will pair with a patrol deputy. Abrams said ULL would provide the patrol vehicle.
ULL’s CUSP program was unveiled at a May 2011 news conference. Lafayette police Chief Jim Craft said then that campus police departments are state-commissioned agencies, which gives campus police jurisdiction to arrest anyone in the state who is committing a crime.
Craft also said that although CUSP discussions started before the killing of a ULL student in October 2010 off the McKinley Street strip, the incident spurred talks to continue.
Abrams said this week that the police radio in the SGA-purchased CUSP unit is on the same frequency as city police dispatchers, allowing patrol officers to radio in to the city squad if there is a need.
Mouton said patrols will usually be dispatched as the sun goes down, but that schedules are altered.
Xavier Stewart, 21, is a junior who lives away from the campus and often parks near Gerard Park.
“Many times I have to walk through Gerard Park and I don’t feel safe,” Stewart said.
Mouton said officers who run CUSP want to instill in students a sense of awareness that danger always might be hiding in the shadows.
Students who know two-agency patrols may be close by also might tamp down bad behavior, he said.