The Collegian
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Complaints trigger off-campus activity regulation

Complaints from off-campus students' neighbors have caused campus police to team with Henrico and Richmond police to regulate off-campus student activity.

Concerns from members of the community have increased in the past year, Richmond College Dean Joe Boehman said. The most common complaints are about noise, excessive trash, parties and intoxicated students, Boehman said.

Police came to senior Dominic Gazzo's off-campus house one night after neighbors complained about noise.

The next day Gazzo's landlord called him and his roommates and told them they weren't to have any more parties, he said.

Gazzo's neighbors have been vocal against college students living in their neighborhood, he said.

Gazzo said, following Hurricane Irene, he had seen a neighbor go up to the pile of branches and debris he and his roomates had cleaned, pick some up and throw it in their driveway.

Boehman credits the poor economy with the influx of rental properties, he said. The houses that students are renting are in highly residential areas with small children and parents are worried about exposing their young kids to college behavior, he said.

Now, campus police officers are driving patrols with Henrico and Richmond police officers around the community.

"We started developing a relationship as more students and fraternities rent houses immediately adjacent to or in the neighborhoods surrounding university," Beth Simonds, campus police services captain, said.

The legal jurisdiction of campus police is on campus and the campus properties. But the campus police department's certification is statewide and there are some circumstances under which any policeman or policewoman can act within the state, Simonds said.

Senior Chris Cowell lives near the Estates at Horspen in a house with three other baseball players. When they threw a birthday party for one of their roomates, two Henrico County police officers, accompanied by a campus police officer came to their house to shut the party down.

Cowell said that because the campus police officer came, the students were called into the Richmond dean's office. They were given a warning.

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Charles Perkins's encounter with police officers that came to his off-campus house one night did not turn out as well. The community police officers that came to his house charged both him and one of his roommates with maintaining common nuisance. Both men had to go to court and do community service. Perkins says that his neighbor was known for calling the police on his house when there was any late-night noise.

"The biggest concern is community relations," Boehman said. When a complaint is called in, the residents of the house involved are asked to come in to the dean's office. "We want to talk about the trouble they could get in within the broader community," Boehman said. No judicial action is taken against students for complaints about the community.

"We want to talk to them before it becomes an unfortunate situation and give advice on how they could improve," Boehman said.

Amanda White lives with three roommates in an off-campus house on Tulane Ave. The homeowners association sent the women a letter telling them to cut their lawn.

People in the community are "looking through a different lens," than college students, Boehman said. But other than the appearance of their lawn, White and her roommates have had good interactions with their neighbors, she said.

"On Halloween last year we were rumored as the house who had really good candy so people came back over and over. We had to start turning them away," White said.

Ryan Soos is another off-campus student who has a good relationship with his neighbors. After Hurricane Irene came through Richmond, he and his roommates offered to help the elderly couple next door clean their yard. The couple later lent the men a lawn mower when theirs was broken.

Even when Soos and his roommates have people over, they rarely hear complaints, he said. The only compliant they've heard was when the backyard gets too crowded. They now put two people at both the front and back doors to control the amount of people outside, Soos said.

The police were once called to the house at 4 a.m. for a noise complaint.

"There were 20 people in the backyard and we completely understood," Soos said. "We just meet our neighbors half way."

"We are trying to work cooperatively to work with fraternities and students that are renting properties," Simonds said.

Contact staff writer Brittany Brady at brittany.brady@richmond.edu

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