Police cruisers with flashing sirens
Lincoln police are oplanning to have both uniformed and plainclothes officers at each of the remaining home games in the 2022 Husker football season.

Unlawful activity decreased during recent Husker football home games, and Lincoln police think increased enforcement might have had something to do with it.

LPD deployed more officers to combat unsafe drinking behaviors — and they announced it before the Huskers opening the 2022 home game against North Dakota on Sept. 3. The increased detail of officers is an attempt to help prevent binge drinking, underage drinking and drunk driving.

After three home games, LPD said the results make them optimistic, citing low citation numbers in several categories of unlawful fan behavior. LPD plans to continue the increased officer patrolling throughout the remainder of the 2022 season. 

“We just want to make sure everybody that comes to Lincoln for the games is safe and can have a great time,” said LPD Sgt. Dustin Romshek. 

Several community members reached out with gratitude for the added emphasis on game days, he said. 

For homeowners in the North Bottoms neighborhood, one of the closest to Memorial Stadium, this year’s football frenzy has felt more like a “peaceful celebration” Romshek said, instead of one that leaves trash, passed out college students or vehicles on the property of Lincoln homeowners. 

Through three home games, LPD has towed 30 vehicles and written over 100 parking tickets, many in the North Bottoms neighborhood. These numbers are higher than years past, as keeping vehicles off these streets is a greater priority. 

Now through three home games, Romshek’s team has already identified key trends in LPD’s booking statistics for other unlawful behavior, such as a decrease in minors in possession of alcohol, people consuming alcoholic beverages in public and urinating in public. 

“These numbers are down from other years in the North Bottoms area,” he said. “Part of the announcement that we are doing details like this is to deter the problems before they even happen.” 

Romshek said that since many in the community are aware that extra officers are in the area, fans attending the game may think twice about unlawful behavior, including underage drinking.

Tammy Stevenson, executive director of Bridge Nebraska, said  the presence of alcohol near a college campus can create problems.

“Young people who are now experiencing some of those things for the first time are at an even higher risk,” Stevenson said of binge drinking. “We certainly see increased drinking around football Saturdays, and with that a lot of poor decisions.”

Bridge Nebraska is a Lincoln-based treatment center that specializes in treating alcoholism and drug addiction.  

Each year the organization hosts its “Safe Tailgate” event prior to a Husker home game. This event allows anyone to be able to enjoy a typical tailgating atmosphere without alcohol involved. 

Stevenson said that Husker games present a whole new set of challenges — combining large crowds of people with alcohol in a limited space. 

“You’re not only dealing with people under the influence, you’re dealing with people who may not even live in Lincoln,” she said. 

This creates risk on downtown Lincoln’s many one-ways or tight side streets. 

“They may not be used to the large amount of foot traffic and pedestrians that are crossing the street,” Stevenson said. “It just makes for a very dangerous situation if alcohol is involved.” 

For a usual home game, LPD monitors the area around Memorial Stadium with four uniformed officers and four in plainclothes. Romshek said his plainclothes officers see more activity in the tailgating areas, behavior that fans wouldn’t ordinarily partake in, in front of a uniformed officer. 

While the plainclothes officers patrol tailgating and pregame areas, LPD continues to use the uniformed officers to maintain a visible police presence. 

These eight officers are solely involved in citing violations and monitoring behavior outside of the stadium.  

Other LPD officers stationed inside the stadium or directing traffic are a part of separate LPD details, and not included as part of the increased detail of eight officers outside the stadium. 

While no alcohol is served inside of Memorial Stadium on game day, drinking before and after the games has long been a part of college football tailgating culture.

Bridge Nebraska suggests that fans who want to drink at football games have a plan of how to get home without getting behind the wheel.

“If you’re going to consume alcoholic beverages do so responsibly,” Stevenson said. “And always have somebody who has not been drinking get behind the wheel or take an Uber.”

With funding secured from the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office through the 2022 season, LPD plans to continue the added security for the Huskers next home game on Oct. 29 against Illinois.

“We’re not here to ruin anybody’s day,” Romshek said. “We just want to let them know that we’re out there, we’re trying to keep everybody safe, and we appreciate all their cooperation in that effort.

Peyton Thomas is a Senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying Sports Media, Broadcasting, and Journalism with a minor in Political Science. He is passionate about sports, and always attempts to find unique stories about real people in his everyday life.