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SBPD to heighten presence

Kaitlynn Riely | Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A meeting of the Northeast Neighborhood Council of South Bend (NENC) two weeks ago prompted Notre Dame’s Off-Campus Council to send an e-mail Thursday warning students that police are heightening their presence on Washington and St. Peter’s Streets, said Josh Pasquesi, Senate Community Relations committee chair.

“It has come to our attention that there have been numerous complaints from neighbors on Washington St and St. Pete’s St.,” the e-mail read. “The South Bend Police Department is planning on taking an increased presence in the area and Indiana State Excise has been notified that this has been a problem area.”

Captain Wanda Shock of the South Bend Police Department (SBPD) spoke to the NENC Sept. 11 in a special presentation on the relationship between off-campus students and South Bend residents, said Krystal Hardy, the student representative on the NENC.

Shock acknowledged that the neighborhood had a history of noise violations and the police continued to receive complaints from neighbors about student parties.

“The last two weeks of August and the first few weeks of September, we had a lot of wild party complaints,” Shock said Monday.

Shock told The Observer that Turtle Creek Apartments and Lafayette Square are also considered problem areas for excessive partying and underage drinking, although she did not single them out at the NENC meeting.

First Sergeant Tim Cleveland of the Indiana State Excise police said they have received numerous complaints about loud parties and trash in the streets in this neighborhood, both from anonymous callers and the SBPD.

“Along with the wild parties and the noise offenses, there are complaints of minors consuming alcohol,” Cleveland said. “It sounds like that neighborhood’s probably a little out of control.”

Senior Ryan Keckley, who lives on St. Peter’s Street, said the neighborhood can get noisy and he understands why neighbors would complain.

“I would say that it is pretty loud most nights just because on our block alone, from Colfax [Street] to Washington [Street], there are four student houses right in a row,” Keckley said. “And then on Washington, between Notre Dame Avenue and St. Louis [Street], there are probably 10 or 15. And they all like to have parties and have kegs.”

No one house is the problem, said Keckley, who thought the combination of all the student houses led to noise complaints.

Cleveland was not aware an e-mail was sent out to students notifying them that the Excise Police had been informed the Washington Street neighborhood was a “problem area.”

“If the e-mail that they’ve sent out alleviates the problem, then that’s all the better,” Cleveland said.

Shock said informing students about complaints, rather than sending police in to break up parties without warning, is a new approach the SBPD is trying this year.

Mark Kramer, the owner of Kramer Properties and the landlord for approximately 60 houses in the South Bend area, has been working with the SBPD to settle complaints without police involvement. Kramer gave his phone numbers to many South Bend residents who live near his student houses so they can reach him at any time with complaints.

Shock said the new tactic seemed to be working.

“What we thought was, if the landlord can handle it in a short period of time, and the residents are happy, then the police don’t need to be involved unless there is a possibility of serious injury and other damage,” Shock said.

She said she still wanted residents to call her the next business day to clarify that the issue was properly resolved.

But that preventative plan may not work with students, Keckley said.

“Until it actually becomes a problem, until the cops come, people aren’t going to change behavior because of an e-mail,” he said.

And residents, Kramer said, may also be hindering the police’s new approach to dealing with students. He said the complaints to the police are persisting – particularly on Washington Street, where he owns most of the houses – because South Bend residents are not willing to compromise.

“I think they have a vendetta and with that sort of attitude we will never build relationships between the students and the residents,” Kramer said.

Even though they have his number and can reach him at any time, neighbors have not called him, Kramer said. He said he received one complaint by phone a month ago and got out of bed at midnight, went over to the house and found it was not a legitimate complaint.

“There are two particular residences on Washington Street that just don’t like students in the neighborhood,” Kramer said. “But I own the majority of the neighborhood and they were fully aware students were there when they moved in.”

Despite the concern about Washington and St. Peter’s Streets, complaints about off-campus students are low this year, Shock said. She recommended that students – if they are 21 – improve community relations by talking to their neighbors and tell them that they will keep their parties under control.

That advice was central to the Off-Campus Council’s e-mail, written by Pasquesi and student body president Lizzi Shappell.

“We want to reinforce our message of living together as neighbors,” Pasquesi said.

The e-mail advised students living off campus to introduce themselves to their neighbors and invited them to get to know members of the community Friday at the Northeast Neighborhood Picnic.

“Students are starting to realize that this city is cracking down on some of the bigger parties and I hope that they are becoming more invested members in the community,” she said.

Many students, like senior Stephen Hansen, have taken that idea to heart. Hansen said he and his roommates introduced themselves to almost all their neighbors when they moved in to 716 E. Washington Street. He said most of them seemed accepting of the fact that students were living in the neighborhood and was “a little surprised [by the e-mail].”

Hansen and his roommates were out of town for the Michigan State game last weekend, so they didn’t have to worry about the ramifications for hosting noisy parties. In the future, they may tell their neighbors before they have a party and ask them to call if it gets too loud, Hansen said.

Stu Stypula, who lives with Hansen, said he was both surprised and upset by the e-mail. He said none of their neighbors have personally approached them about any problems with noise.

“[I hope] that it’s another house, but it could very well have been one of our neighbors who never said anything [to us] and just went to the police,” Stypula said.

While the police have come by senior David D’Onofrio’s house at 815 E. Washington Street on several nights, he and his roommates have not received any noise violations.

“We just talk to them nicely, they tell us what to do, and we do it,” D’Onofrio said.

And that’s what police are hoping for. Shock said as long as students keep the parties inside, under control, and do not serve alcohol to minors, they should not have a problem with the police.

“We really do not have the intention to go out and bust students and arrest them,” Shock said. “We want students to live happily in the area and be safe.”