Welcome Weekend nuisance party citations increase 400 percent
Overall Welcome Weekend citations up 79 percent from 2015
By the morning of Aug. 28, the Mount Pleasant Police Department received 653 calls. That's almost 100 calls more than last year.
Student Government Association President Ian Elliott wants to know why.
“The police went around and made it very clear they were going to be strict this (Welcome) Weekend. You really just have to ask why,” Elliott said. “I have to question why (police) dug in even harder on students, because it’s damaging student-police relationships. It’s not going to damage, it is damaging. It’s happening right now.”
Last month, from Aug. 25 to Aug. 28, 653 phone calls were made to law enforcement and 344 citations were issued, according to a press release issued by the Mount Pleasant Police Department. This resulted in a 79.1 percent ticketing increase from Welcome Weekend 2015. While many students expressed annoyance with the amount of citations during 2016’s mostly peaceful Welcome Weekend, Mount Pleasant Police Officer Jeff Browne said there were no more officers out during Welcome Weekend than in previous years.
Mount Pleasant City Manager Nancy Ridley said Welcome Weekend policing comes in “peaks and valleys,” in relation to student action. She defines right now as “coming down from a peak” and said students this Welcome Weekend were more respectful of adhering to the law, although citations rose.
Between 2015 and 2016, all counts of ticketing were increased except in the cases of resisting and obstructing justice, which decreased from seven citations issued in 2015 to three this year. Ambulance runs, however, more than doubled from five to 17 between this year and last and three sexual contact complaints were lodged this year. None were reported last year.
Browne said one possible explanation for the increase in citations was related to a lack of needing to constantly sweep the streets. In years past, Browne and other officers have had to form lines and march down city blocks to clear people crowding roads impeding traffic. This year, he said that technique was only needed once.
“The year before, we did several times where the streets were so congested with people in the roadway, you couldn’t get vehicular traffic through,” he said. “That can really make a difference. I think the lighting also definitely helped in the area, which seemed to spread things out.”
Hosting a nuisance party saw the biggest increase in citations from 2015 to 2016, the number growing from 9 to 45.
Under Ordinance 995, Section 96.04: Nuisance Gathering, a nuisance party is defined as meeting “one or more” of the 12 standards set by the city including underage drinking, public urination or defecation and “generation of noise or violations that are audible at a distance beyond 50 feet from the property line of the premises.” This updated ordinance has been effective since July 2015, clarifying Ordinance 96.04 so that the city could have a standard on policing marijuana at nuisance parties and gatherings.
Browne said officers typically look and listen for either loud music, an abundance of trash or people cluttering lawns and sidewalks. Whether or not officers break up a nuisance party comes down to officer discretion.
Due to the number of press releases, emails and educational training done by the Mount Pleasant Police Department, Browne said he believes there is no reason why the nuisance party violations should be as high as they are.
From sending emails to student accounts warning of the dangers of the weekend, to hosting a panel during orientation to teach freshmen about Welcome Weekend, Browne said he doesn’t know what more the department can do.
“We are enforcing the laws and the ordinances we’ve always had. Now we’re holding people to that standard,” he said. “At some point, there has to be a time when you start holding people accountable and I think that’s where we’re stepping into. You hear people say ‘Well I didn’t know,’ but how do you not know? There’s a letter that comes out from CMU and the city, social media, the College Life and the Law (orientation course), the walk around in the neighborhoods — we do these proactive things, how do you not know?”
Browne said the number of student-received citations was lower than the amount of out of town citations but he didn’t know definitively.
The police department double checks this by compiling a list of all the names they take down while giving out citations, and then double checks these names against the Central Michigan University registrar’s list. Last year, Browne said, the percentage was “predominantly out-of-towners.” While an exact number was not known for this Welcome Weekend, Browne was confident student citations was a significantly less number than visitor citations.
Elliott, however, said more needs to be done. Appealing to the City Commission, Elliott said SGA plans to document a number of complaints they received throughout Welcome Weekend and present them to members of the commission. He hopes the number of student voices compiled in this report will spur talks on how to work with the city to lower the amount of citations written.
“As city commission liaison last year, I had ongoing conversations with the City Commission. We’ve been having this exact same conversation for a year, and that’s where a part of my disappointment comes from because I thought we were at a balance point,” Elliott said. “At some point, the city decided to become stricter and that’s where I’m bewildered.”
Some city officials, however, feel the opposite.
“I hope (the community and students) are proud of what they’ve done and their commitment to maintaining the community standard,” said Glenn Feldhauser, director of the division of public safety. “Everyone should be congratulated for their behavior. I thought it was outstanding. It wasn’t the best we’ve ever had, but we’re headed in the right direction.”
The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at Community Hall.