Student safety issues living near the river

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Emily Butler and her friends love taking their tubes on the river.

She will be starting her first year at UW- Eau Claire and says she would love to be able to live in student housing downtown.

"I think that's a pretty awesome idea, I would want to live there," she said.

She has no problem with students being out on the river. And if the Confluence Project comes to fruition, she says there should be no problem with students living next to the river.

"I think more people living in the area is only going to be a benefit to the safety of that area," said Ben Richgruber, the Executive Director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council.

He says better lighting and more activity downtown will help. Right now, the proposed Confluence Project river area has a parking lot, walking trail, new walking bridge and stairs to the river. He says if there is a building here, there will be people and when there are people, there are more eyes on the water.

"It's like pedestrians on a street, the more pedestrians there are on a street, the more attention the traffic will pay to the pedestrians," he said. "So if you've got more people along the river, the river will probably be a safer place just because you have that many more people there watching."

That is not to say there haven't been some concerns about it.

"People bring that up in conversation, it's not a new topic to us, we want to make sure it's a safe place to be," he said.

Officer Kyle Roder with the Eau Claire Police Department says the Confluence Project would not change the number of officers they have. He says those on the downtown beat would help keep watch for any problems in and around the river.

"They would just shift their patrol to different areas, it wouldn't take away from the other areas of patrol, but it would be another area our officers would focus on," he said.

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