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Sheriff Says Tailgate Crackdown Could Prove Taxing

Paul Steinbach

If you plan on cracking down on tailgaters, make sure you include the local jailer in the discussion.

Lonny Pulkrabek, the sheriff in Johnson County, Iowa, is concerned that the University of Iowa's new "Think Before You Drink" campaign, in which officers working around Kinnick Stadium will strictly enforce existing open-container and public-urination laws, could overtax his jail's capacity. The university is also cutting off all drinking in UI parking ramps and lots one hour after games (all tailgating activity will be cut off after two hours), and vehicle safety check points will be set up to identify drunken drivers.

While schools have long struggled with the enforcement of tailgate policies, the Johnson County sheriff's concern stems from a 2006 night game against Ohio State, after which "the jail got to some dangerous levels of inmates," according to Pulkrabek, who claims he wasn't consulted about the crackdown. "I'm not real thrilled with it," he told The Iowa City Press-Citizen. "The university appears to be a little narrow sighted on it."

In the past, 15 to 20 inmates housed at the Johnson County jail have been transported out of county to make extra room at the jail on home football weekends - a measure that costs county taxpayers between $3,000 and $4,000 on weekends featuring big games. The university is "making millions of dollars a year," according to Pulkrabek. "We don't get asked for our opinion."

This year, Pulkrabek is planning on shipping 30 inmates out of county. He has also looked into establishing jail population "trigger points," at which time would-be inmates charged with simple misdemeanors are turned away or transported to jails in adjacent counties. Even so, Johnson County officers will need to retrieve those inmates for their court appearances.

"The university ends up putting quite a burden on the Johnson County taxpayers," Pulkrabek told Press-Citizen reporter Lee Hermiston. "I'm not going to let the liability of having so many inmates in our small jail happen again."

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