City commission discusses behavior in M-2 neighborhood during work session
Mount Pleasant Police Department Chief and Division of Public Safety Director Glenn Feldhauser led a discussion on behavior in mostly student-populated neighborhood M-2 during the City Commission's work session Tuesday.
The M-2 district holds near-campus housing on Main, Fancher, Lansing and Washington streets.
Feldhauser pointed out the department's primary concerns, which could be split into two categories: nuisance parties and neighborhood appearance, including trash, parking, furniture and tall grass.
In 2014, the department collected data on their diversion program, which offers those charged with misdemeanors an alternative to criminal court. Of 542 arrests, 229 were offered the program and 186 individuals accepted. Accepting means the individual would have to pay a $250 fee, complete 24 hours of community service, provide restitute for any damages and have no additional charges in the next six months, as opposed to fighting the original charge. Feldhauser said only three percent of those participating had to be revoked from the program last year, proving its effectiveness in changing behavior.
Feldhauser said busier weekends, such as Welcome Weekend and Halloween, have "zero tolerance" policies. He said during this year's Welcome Weekend, police presence will double.
"We arrest as many people as we can, not to be vindictive or anything, but it's broken windows," he said.
The Broken Windows Theory is a concept Feldhauser mentioned, which works on addressing small problems before they become bigger problems.
Commissioner Kathleen Ling said she hasn't noticed a decrease in students consuming alcohol in the streets or in noise levels. She said enforcing the nuisance ordinance would make more sense.
"I read through the ordinance, and it looks pretty good to me," she said. "If we were enforcing it, we wouldn't have students in the street."
The commissioners discussed other ways to motivate those living in that area to keep trash and furniture off of lawns, park in proper places and remove tall grass from their properties.
Mount Pleasant Mayor Jim Holton brought up landlord involvement and code enforcement. He suggested a Dedicated Code Enforcer, who could be available at all times to make sure the appearance of the area is kept up to standard. He also stressed an educational opportunity, which brings up a larger issue of students being members of the community, not just temporary residents.
"We want to enforce and do our part, but the landlords are responsible as well. The tenant is too," he said. "They know exactly what can happen if they don't comply. Education is a key part."
The commission decided to hold off on making formal decisions until more information is obtained. Feldhauser said student input would be helpful to the department and commission.