Westminster's public safety chair said the city has made strides in dealing with disorderly students, an issue brought to the Common Council earlier this month by frustrated downtown residents. But problem renters aren't limited to students.
At the end of a council meeting Monday night, after a new set of residents lodged complaints about problem renters other than college students on East Main Street, council members said it may be time to require landlords to make better decisions through a licensing process.
A handful of downtown residents attended the earlier, March 12 meeting asking the city council and police to deal with McDaniel College students who are disruptive and disorderly late at night and on weekends.
Councilman Tony Chiavacci, chair of the public safety committee, reported at Monday night's Common Council meeting that representatives from the city, McDaniel College, campus safety and the Westminster Police Department have been working together to address the problem since the last council meeting.
Chiavacci said the city and police department will be identifying specific residences that are habitual offenders. He said the address will be flagged in a computer system and consequences could range from sanctions from the college, possible legal ramifications and city code inspections.
"We will really start looking at houses that are identified as problems and do everything we can to put pressure on the residents and landlords to get them back in line," Chiavacci said.
McDaniel College and the police department will also be working together to conduct joint patrols on West Main Street on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., Chiavacci said.
Chiavacci said that McDaniel College will be voluntarily funding some of the overtime used to conduct these weekend and late night patrols.
Not long after Chiavacci completed his report, a different group of citizens who said they live in the area of 130 East Main Street complained they are also dealing with problem renters who are disruptive and disorderly.
Jamie Prue said she has lived in her home for five years. She said the residents at one specific adress cause constant problems and she worries about the small children living in the neighborhood.
"I’m appalled, freightened, sickened," Prue said. "I am awakend every night by ... outrageous behavior, from foul language to singing to loud music to fights. I can’t begin to tell you what I have found on the sidewalk in front of that house, what I have seen carrying on on the front porch, what I have been called..."
Prue said the landlord of the problem home has received more than 100 code violations on properties he owns in Carroll County that include keeping the property clean and safe.
Jenny Gulardi, also a resident of the 130 block of East Main Street, said she would like to see the city respond as enthusiastically to the issues on her block as they did to the McDaniel College student problems.
"I wish that you guys would come to us after hearing these complaints and say, 'Hey, let's put together a task force for you guys to deal with these properties up here as well'," Gulardi said. "Unfortuantely, I don't think we're going to get that becuase we're not McDaniel College and we don't have any money to bring to the table."
"If you're doing it for one part of the town," Gulardi said, "it would really be great to have it across the entire town."
Chiavacci said that he is in favor of exploring a licensing process for landlords.
"I feel strongly that we start moving forward with landlord licensing," Chiavacci said. "It gives us a bigger hammer to wield at problematic landlords."
Chiavacci told residents that in the short term, the police would pay attention to the addresses people were complaining about.