Ames, ISU Police Departments work together to keep university, community safe

Makayla Tendall

If you are having a gathering in your dorm room that is getting a little too rowdy, chances are ISU police will come knocking on your door. If the party is in your private home and the neighbors have had enough, you are likely to get a visit from Ames Police instead.

Students out for a good time in Campustown on Friday or Saturday night will see both Ames and ISU Police patrolling the streets.

The Ames and ISU Police Departments have a long history of collaboration policing students who live on and off campus.  

“We have a relationship, I think, that’s second to none. It’s always been a close relationship,” said Jerry Stewart, director of ISU Police.

Their patrol routes — or lack of one — reflects that relationship.

Though ISU police officers have statewide jurisdiction, the ISU Police Department’s primary jurisdiction is defined as the area on campus, the outlying university-owned buildings and land around Ames, such as outlying farms, research centers and university-lease housing facilities.

“What we’ve done on a departmental directive is say basically if property is located within Story County, we will retain primary jurisdiction,” Stewart said. “If there’s an incident at a farm in a county that’s located a good distance away, we’ll refer to the sheriff’s office in that county.”

While ISU Police has a defined primary jurisdiction of campus, Ames Police patrols the other areas of Ames, including the heavily student-populated Campustown and Greekland. The reason ISU Police does not have primary jurisdiction over areas many students congregate is because the jurisdiction was “set in stone way before our time,” said Ames Police Commander Jason Tuttle.

“If you go back, way back in history, there were houses along Welch back when the university was developed,” Tuttle said. “For the most part, the jurisdictional boundaries, other than adding these buildings on Maricopa and 119 Stanton, have not changed.”

Though the shared software shows officers which department has primary jurisdiction in the area where a call comes from, the jurisdiction is used as more of a guideline, Stewart said.

“If a suspected offense is committed in an officer’s presence, we’ll go ahead and take that,” Stewart said. “We’re not going to say, ‘ah, this is Ames primary,’ just as they wouldn’t say on our campus. If they’re seeing the offense, they’ll take action.”

Though Ames Police has a primary jurisdiction in Campustown, Stewart said ISU Police still patrols that area to a degree because it is where many crimes involving students occur, such as aggravated assault, sexual assaults and alcohol-related offenses.

Tuttle said ISU and Ames administrators talk to their patrol officers about how and when to respond to calls, but the officers for both departments work well enough together that they can figure it out on the spot without a problem.

“We try not to say there’s a line right here,” Tuttle said “We’re thinking we need to do this or that, and the guys on the street are thinking, ‘no let’s just get it done.’”

The departments have learned to work well together by sharing the same radio and records software, along with the Story County Sheriff’s Office.

“We had the foresight years ago to use the same software for dispatching and records,” Stewart said. “We can look at a screen and we’ve identified primary responders, so when a dispatcher receives a call and types in the location, it guides the dispatcher.”

Tuttle said the sharing of records and radio has helped reduce the overlap each department may have on each other’s arrests. The software allows officers to see the prior contacts each department has had with a suspect when they are pulled over or stopped by an officer.

Sharing also makes sense because the ISU Police Department’s jurisdiction is in the center of Ames’ jurisdiction.  

“The main reason is because we surround them, so it makes sense to cost-share one of those expenses,” Tuttle said. “They deal with the same people a lot of times we deal with on the street, so we don’t put up these walls where we’re not talking.”

The Ames and ISU departments also have a mutual aid agreement, meaning one department can ask another to respond or assist with a call. 

The departments must also work together through crime reporting.

Tuttle says he provides Pamela Anthony, the dean of students, a list of the arrests made in the last week every Monday so she can see which students were arrested and follow up with Judicial Affairs if needed.

ISU Police must work closely with those in the Ames Police Department and faculty throughout the university to put together the Clery Report, the annual crime statistics for the university, so the public can see which crimes happened near the university throughout the last year. 

Though many of the crimes in student-populated areas like Campustown and Greekland may have been handled by Ames Police and be a part of its records, Stewart said ISU Police annually polls those areas to see how many and what types of crimes occurred.  

They also poll some of the campus security authorities — a federally defined term meaning an official responsible for students and their activities, like community advisers and professors — to see what crimes students had reported to them.

“They may hear of an incident, but we don’t have a victim coming forward wanting to report to police,” Stewart said. “We may have 13 forcible sex offenses, but as we poll our partners, we may get other reports that never made it into us. We report them.”

ISU Police must report the types and numbers of crimes that occur on campus, on non-campus property and public property. Stewart said “there are nuances” because the statistics in the Clery Report may not be the same as the total crime statistics.

“This gets very complicated because these are Clery stats, which differ from our crime stats. [Clery statistics] are geographically defined and the crime stats are not. These numbers will never jive with our normal crime stats,” Stewart said. “For example, we may cover an aggravated assault somewhere that may not be defined by these.”

This was the case with a sexual assault an ISU student was the victim of during break, Stewart said. The assault occurred in Sioux City, but Sioux City officials asked ISU Police to investigate the case, so the case was recorded as an “assist other agency” in ISU Police records.

Stewart said he is aware that these nuances can be confusing for students and prospective students who look at the Clery Report to be informed about the types and amount of crimes that occur at Iowa State.

“A parent of a prospective student was on campus doing a tour and had a question about sexual assault statistics. So I sent a link to this as well as our five-year crime stats,” Stewart said. “It’s very complicated and it’s not designed to be misleading.”