By Jackson Wilde
Following an arrest at Blue Square on Sept. 18, some of the tenants at the student housing complex are concerned about the frequency of police interactions at the facility and the police’s ability to access the building.
Dylan Harlow, a current tenant at Blue Square, said he has seen police in the halls “with no purpose” on at least seven different occasions. To access the Blue Square’s apartments it’s necessary to have a RFID key card. The cards exclusive to staff and tenants. Harlow said there is concern amongst the tenants that the police have been given key cards to patrol the building at their discretion.
Jason Smith, a Blue Square resident for 18 months, said the increase in police activity is a new development that came with the 2015 fall semester. As a result, Smith said he is “a little less happy to live at Blue Square.”
Smith said the apartment complex once had a laissez faire approach to parties and student life, which appealed to him when he moved there. Now, Smith said, he sees police in the building once or twice a week.
During a party he hosted on Sept. 4, Smith said he encountered police officers in the hallway outside of his apartment performing what they said was a “normal patrol.” Smith said he asked the police how they entered the building, and they said they had a key card.
“It’s supposed to be harder for the cops to get in,” Smith said.
Capt. Tyson Budge of the Logan City Police Department could not confirm that individual officers had Blue Square key cards. However, Budge said both the police and the fire department have access to all public areas at Blue Square. He said in the instance of an emergency, landlord or tenant request, the police may enter the building to take appropriate action but the police don’t have access to individual apartments without first acquiring a warrant.
“Blue Square as a company is willing to support the police department in any way possible,” said Jody Robins, the general manager at Blue Square. Robins said the recent arrest at Blue Square was not a product of wayward policemen roaming the facility. Both Robins and Budge said a warrant had been present at the time of the search and the police were let in by Blue Square staff.
“In the lease it says you can’t do illegal things here,” Robins said. “At the end of the day, our residents are the most important thing to us as a company. That our residents are safe and protected.”
Greg Lamb, an attorney based in Vernal, Utah, said there is a possibility of a rights violation but the police are likely to have rights similar to those of the tenants in regards to the common areas. He said an argument could be made that the landlord becomes an “extension of law enforcement” by allowing the police to enter a semi-private area without a warrant, which is an issue of fourth amendment suppression.
Budge said police officers have been called to Blue Square 41 times since Jan. 1. Old Farm, a student housing complex located directly south of Blue Square, has had 15 police responses in that time. Six of the police responses at Blue Square have taken place since Sept. 1.
“That number seems really, really high to me. Extremely high to me,” Robins said. “We don’t call the cops on our residents. We try and resolve it internally.”
Robins said he had requested information from the police in the spring of 2015 which said one police report involving Blue Square had been reported during that spring semester. The Sept. 18 arrest would be the second police report since then.
Lamb said two police reports out of 41 police responses would suggest either harassment or discretion on behalf of the management. “It’s either one extreme or the other,” Lamb said.