Off-campus revelry brings headaches to aldermen, residents

Patrick Svitek, City Editor

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Every year, Evanston aldermen face the all-too-familiar ritual of handling dozens of residents’ complaints about rambunctious Northwestern students swarming off-campus neighborhoods during Wildcat Welcome.

Except this year, some aldermen say their constituents are more concerned than in the past about the size of the groups waking up their families as they look for the next party.

“It’s really disappointing to still get complaints with all we have in place to prevent this,” said Ald. Jane Grover (7th), whose ward includes some neighborhoods northwest of the NU campus.

Grover cited several examples of well-known efforts to make students “good neighbors,” including NU and city officials going door-to-door to remind them to behave themselves, as well as regular updates on the off-campus email list.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st), whose ward covers the first two blocks west of campus, agreed with Grover’s assessment, saying “there were definitely more” complaints this year than during past Wildcat Welcomes.

One such complaint came from Jane Evans, who has lived in an off-campus neighborhood for 26 years. This year, she recalled watching through her window early one morning as three men peed on a tree near her house surrounded by eight to 10 other people. A few minutes later, a man jumped on her family’s car, leaped down and knocked over a garbage can, she said.

“When you have the five days that we had, you feel betrayed,” she said.

It remains unclear how many neighbors shared Evans’ frustration. The aldermen and authorities were vague on details, citing residents’ concerns being submitted through different outlets and not always leading to an official record. Evanston and University police said they stepped up their presence in off-campus neighborhoods during Wildcat Welcome but stopped short of describing it as anything out of the ordinary.

University Police Deputy Chief Dan McAleer said most complaints deal with new students “walking around and shouting, looking for parties.”

“Overall, it’s an annoyance for some of the neighbors,” McAleer said. “Hopefully the students respect the neighbors.”

Evanston Police Cmdr. Jay Parrott said city cops were “enhancing attention to the area” and working with UP to address excessive noise, parties and underage drinking. He called the expanded patrol a “common adjustment” during Wildcat Welcome.

Although both forces typically send more cops to off-campus neighborhoods during Wildcat Welcome, McAleer said the annual trend “doesn’t make it any less annoying” for year-round residents who are not used to raucous parties on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Among them is Evans, who sits on City Council’s Rental Unit Licensing Committee. She said this year marked a tipping point for off-campus debauchery, undercutting serious progress made in the city-University relationship over the past three decades.

“It’s the magnitude of the problem, and it appears to be the complete and total disregard for the neighborhood,” she said. “When things like these happen, we just go back years.”

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), whose ward includes most off-campus neighborhoods between Sherman Avenue and Ridge Avenue, said she does not track her constituents’ complaints annually but has noticed the Wildcat Welcome festivities seem to taper off later every year.

“Lots of noise in the wee hours of the morning,” she added.

Cat Zakrzewski contributed reporting.

Twitter: @PatrickSvitek