Westminster residents told city council members and the police chief this week they are fed up with students who host parties and disturb the peace late at night.
"Main street shuts down at 1 a.m. and they [college students] come up to Hersh Avenue and might as well put up a street sign that says, 'open for business,'" George Cliff, a Pennsylvania Avenue resident, told the council.
"It goes on every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. It’s not that they come up in small groups of two or three students, sometimes it's groups of 50."
Prior to the citizens comment portion of the meeting, Westminster Police Chief Jeffrey Spaulding reported that the department is increasing police presence outside of Main Street bars at closing time. He said police officers would also be checking IDs at some bars to ensure patrons are the legal drinking age.
"We'll also be assigning officers to patrol the streets heading back to the college," Spaulding said. "We will have a significant presence; it's one of our highest priorities and we're working on it."
Cliff said that just standing outside of bars isn't going to be enough.
Council member Tony Chiavacci, council public safety chair, said that he was part of a meeting more than a year ago with police, college representatives and residents to discuss several off-campus student houses that were habitual offenders of disturbing the peace and underage drinking.
"We're not condoning this activity; let's be clear on that. I'm glad you're bringing this to our attention because I thought this was under control," Chiavacci told the residents.
Cliff admitted that there had been a lull in the rowdy student behavior but that it has returned.
Tina McAulay, a Monroe Street resident, said that her yard backs up to the back yard of problem residences on Hersh Avenue.
"I hear everything that goes on over there," McAulay said. "I’m a working person with a middle school student. My concern is not only for myself but also for the impressionable students who go to William Winchester [elementary school]....
"I'm asking the chief of police that your police officers are more consistent. If this is what my kids see, what are we doing for the kids, not teaching them anything," McAulay said.
Spaulding said one problem for police is there are new students moving into the residences every semester.
"Every semester the names and faces change," Spaulding said.
Spaulding said the problem isn't new and that police meet with college representatives, students, residents and police.
"Our experience in the past has been that once we’ve had one of these meeting of the minds, it has a calming effect on that residence. The problem abates, then a new group of students come and the problem starts again," Spaulding said.
Council President Damian Halstad said that it's time bear down on the troublemakers.
"This to me is an extension of what we’re fighting on Main Street. It's important, it's destructive and I take it seriously," Halstad said. "We have to stay on it and I think this is a good opportunity to ramp it up."
Halstad asked the police chief to address the problem with a renewed sense of vigilance.
"So often with these situations you have to turn the heat up," Halstad said. "These kids do have something to lose--they can’t afford arrests, fines, records or for their parents to find out what they're doing."