Durham, N.H., seeks police budget help

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DURHAM, N.H. (AP) – With help from an economist, the town is getting ready to ask the University of New Hampshire to contribute to its police budget.

Town officials have long contended that their policing costs are far higher than they would be without UNH.

Now, they plan to push that argument using statistics marshaled by economist Russ Thibeault of Applied Economic Research in Laconia. An early estimate based on Thibeault’s work puts the extra cost at about $500,000 per year, according to Town Council Chairman Neil Niman.

“We’re going to try and hone the number and hone (Thibeault’s) report to make sure it is accurate. And then it’s our intention to go to the university,” Niman said.

The university already kicks in for fire protection, water and sewer service in Durham, population about 13,400.

But it doesn’t help subsidize the police budget, which is just under $1.9 million this year.

“There is a significant cost to the town that is imposed on the town by the university,” said Thibeault, who has been researching the issue on and off for about a year. He said the added cost is primarily for salaries and benefits.

He said the burden is not simply due to students, but the fact that students and staff are a large proportion of Durham’s daytime population. UNH has about 10,600 full-time undergraduates, plus part-time undergraduates and graduate students.

It’s not clear how the university will respond.

UNH has its own police department, which enforces laws on campus.

But due partly to the university’s zero-tolerance for underage drinking, Niman said much undesirable behavior by UNH students and other college-aged individuals happens off campus, in the town’s jurisdiction.

Proof is in the police logs, Niman said. In the summertime, when students are on break, hardly anyone is arrested.

“It’s just always sort of surprised me that the university hasn’t made a contribution because I think this is one area, clearly, where the university is creating a burden for the town,” Niman said.

Thibeault said being host to the university increases town revenue, but not enough to offset the increase in policing costs.

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