Neighborhood police patrols active around campus

By Matt Day

Zero Adult Providers, a St. Paul Police squad that concentrates on maintaining neighborhood security and preventing underage drinking, has responded to at least five off-campus Macalester student-hosted parties this fall. Saturday’s arrest of a student at a party on St. Clair Ave. marks the first arrest of a Macalester student this academic year.

Launched in the fall of 2000, ZAP was created in response to St. Paul residents’ complaints that police response to excessively loud college parties was inadequate.

Between four and eight ZAP officers patrol St. Paul’s college neighborhoods each Friday and Saturday night, said Sgt. Kent Cleveland, who supervises the program.

“Basically the program exists because of a lot of problems over the years off campus, and people felt there was a need to try to address these disturbances,” said Theresa Heiland, executive director of St. Paul’s 13th district community council.

Heiland and the other district heads serve as liaisons between government programs and the neighborhoods they represent, in efforts to facilitate communication between residents and police.

“The advice we give [residents] is if there’s a disturbance, to call 911,” Heiland said.

Heiland said the ZAP program is necessary for St. Paul’s college neighborhoods, citing a recent sexual assault that occurred at a local college’s off-campus party.

“The bottom line is I support the program because it has made an impact on the problem of parties that get out of hand,” she said.

Chris Schodt ’09 said he saw two different sides of ZAP officers when they arrived at his house to investigate a party he was hosting in September.

“The first two [officers] I talked to were very reasonable,” Schodt said. “The last one was kind of foaming at the mouth and threatening me with jail time. He was very aggressive.”

Schodt said that police didn’t issue a written warning and just asked that the partygoers return home.

Founded by the Minnesota Join Together Coalition, ZAP was originally funded by a grant from Minnesota for Public Health and the U.S. Department of Education.

St. Paul Police originally asked area colleges to contribute $3,000 to supplement the program’s grant. St. Thomas was the only college that agreed to make the contribution, Vice President for Student Affairs Laurie Hamre said.

Cuts to Minnesota for Public Health’s budget eliminated the program’s state funding in 2003. The St. Paul Police
Department has funded the program ever since, paying officers overtime for ZAP patrols, program supervisor Sergeant Kent Cleveland said.

Macalester students had one of their most notable encounters with ZAP patrols in Sept. 2001 when two students were arrested and more than two-dozen cited.

Since 2001, ZAP’s focus has shifted away from Macalester, with few serious incidents involving Macalester students.

Heiland said most ZAP arrests occur around St. Thomas and Hamline.

“This is not about being against parties, it’s about encouraging responsibility,” Heiland said.

Cleveland agreed. “I don’t know that you’ll ever completely wipe out juvenile drinking,” he said. “But if people know that there’s a group out there specifically looking for issues like this, they’ll take that into consideration.