The Metropolitan Police Department has increased enforcement of noise and alcohol violations and been arresting violators rather than issuing citations, as in the past.
Many students view the newly enforced policy as excessive, intrusive and inimical to respectful relations between students and Georgetown residents.
“Before we only faced a $300 citation; now we face arrest,” Jacob Norton (COL ‘08), an off-campus resident, said. “Anyone who had a house will be arrested for any party violation.”
The Voice obtained an email sent by Andrew Solberg, commander of the MPD 2nd District, which includes Georgetown, to Director of Student Affairs Charles VanSant that said, “Please tell your clients that I plan on being out their Saturday night, and 2D will be making arrests for ANY violation of the law. I am not going to go through this again this year, with GU students disrupting the peace of the community in which they live.”
When Russell Joye (COL ‘08) left his house on 35th street at around 10 p.m. Saturday night to go to Adams Morgan, the open beer can in his hand was the furthest thing from his mind.
It was not long before two undercover police officers came from behind and confiscated the container. Seconds later, Joye found himself surrounded by “10 cops with nothing to do.” He was then put into what he called the “paddy wagon” and taken to the downtown station. Eight and half hours and five police stations later, he was finally let out.
“The policy is putting Georgetown students through a horrible risk,” Joye said. “One moment I was standing next to a crackhead, and another moment I was sitting next to a homeless man in one of the cells.”
Solberg stressed that any “disturbance of the peace” is grounds for arrest.
“If we come to your house, someone’s going to jail,” he said. “It could be everyone at the party.”
Solberg explained that any noise that could be heard from the sidewalk is considered a disurbance. This policy extends not only to indoor social gatherings, but also to telephone calls and conversations on house patios and porches.
The relationship between Georgetown students, MPD and the neighbors has becoming increasingly tense.
“Students shouldn’t be afraid,” Matt Hammel (MSB ‘10), press secretary for Work Hard Play Hard—Georgetown Students for Stopping the Madness, said. “Police should be seen as offering protection rather than just here to stop fun and get you into trouble.”
“The aggressive behavior of MPD is contributing to a culture of fear on this campus, resulting in unnecessary hostility between the students, neighbors, MPD, and University administrators,” Georgetown University Student Association president Ben Shaw (COL ‘08) said.
Stricter policies have been coupled with an increase in MPD’s presence in the neighborhood. Previously, six or seven officers were assigned to the neighborhood on weekends. This past weekend, however, thirty officers, both undercover and in uniform, patrolled the Georgetown area.
“Obviously, we don’t understand the scope of the responsibilities of law enforcement in the city, but I think it’s reasonable to say their resources are misused by assigning thirty officers to baby-sit parties,” Student Association Vice President Matt Appenfeller (COL ‘08) said.
Despite these objections, MPD asserts that the unprecedented number of complaints from neighborhood residents merits the change in policy.
“There have been more complaints than ever, and angrier complaints,” Solberg said
Bonnie Hardy, an Advisory Neighborhood Commision member who has lived along -side Georgetown students for thirty-four years, was still shocked at the level of student activity thus far in the school year. She emphasized that especially within the last few weekends, the level of noise and partying has been “outrageous.”
Norton expressed concern that MPD’s policy is a result of Georgetown’s new alcohol policy, a sentiment echoed by a number of students. The university’s policies, he argued, have effectively eliminated the traditional party scene on campus, pushing students who want to drink out into the Georgetown community.
“What previously would have been on-campus has moved off-campus,” Solberg said.
In the face of such speculation, Georgetown’s administration is hesitant to draw a link between the two policies.
“I think it’s premature to draw that connection.” Jeanne Lord, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, said.