Students blamed for noisy behavior

Evan Hessel and Evan Hessel

City officials brainstormed ways of improving relations between Fifth Ward residents and Northwestern students Wednesday night after a recent string of student-caused disturbances.

A boom in resident complaints of loud parties and garbage problems on the east side of the Fifth Ward prompted Ald. Joseph Kent (5th) to call the meeting in order to develop policies to “relieve the craziness going on in the neighborhood.”

University Police Chief Saul Chafin told The Daily he would like to see his department assist EPD in breaking up parties in the neighborhood, but that Kent has banned the department from patrolling the area.

A city ordinance passed in 1999 stated that UP would assist EPD in breaking up criminal activity off campus, but Kent told UP not to patrol his ward because he said he worries UP officers will treat law-breaking students differently than they do other Evanston residents.

Kent worries because he said two years ago Chafin told a Human Services Committee meeting that sometimes UP would avoid arresting students for marijuana violations because the arrest might harm their futures.

But Chafin said UP treats NU students like other residents and will arrest them when they break the law.

“It’s our responsibility to deal with students, and we’ve been doing it for years,” Chafin said. “Maybe the neighborhood needs a heavier police presence to make these people get their act together.”

One Evanston woman who declined to give her name because she said her property has been damaged, also said she has not had a full night’s sleep since students arrived in September at the building adjacent to her property on the 2100 block of Ridge Avenue. She said the neighboring students’ loud talking and door-slamming frustrate her on a nightly basis, and that she and her husband have called Evanston Police Department between 12 and 15 times since September to report loud parties.

NU’s crackdown on campus parties where alcohol has present has pushed more students off-campus to drink, the woman’s husband said.

Wednesday’s discussion was the first in a series of efforts by Kent to involve residents in the process of improving tenant-landlord relations in the neighborhood. In the meantime, Kent said that he hoped his ward’s residents would continue to report crimes committed by students to EPD.

In addition to law enforcement’s role in the improvement of the neighborhood, Kent said NU’s administration and faculty need to take a larger role in the project. Kent also said he hopes to continue discussions with NU Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis and Community Relations Specialist Lucille Krasnow on how the NU administration can better cooperation between students living off campus and Evanston residents.

One resident suggested that NU penalize students academically for repeated violations of city laws and ordinances.

But student tenants are not solely responsible for the neighborhood’s recent problems, said Paula Haynes, director of Evanston’s human relations commission. Absentee landlords often neglect to provide all the services required by Evanston’s tenant-landowner agreement, and students fail to realize they are being taken advantage of. For example, some landlords living away from their properties may let garbage collect around dumpsters for days, Haynes said.

Kent said Associated Student Government’s new pamphlet about tenant-landlord responsibilities is an excellent step to informing students of their rights and responsibilities as tenants but said he would like to hear students speak at the task force’s next meetings.

Kent plans to have a meeting with residents and city and NU officials in February.