APD Sees Drop In Noise Complaints, Rise In Nuisance Reports

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The Athens Police Department saw a significant decrease in the number of noise complaints in 2013 compared to prior years but an increase in nuisance party reports, according to APD Chief Tom Pyle.

In the January Athens Police newsletter, Pyle wrote that noise complaints have substantially dropped in the city for the first time since 2009.

“We have received over 100 less noise complaints compared to this time last year and almost 200 less complaints than we received in 2010, our highest year of noise complaints in the past five years,” Pyle wrote. “I feel we can attribute the drop, at least in part, to continued enforcement efforts in line with our noise enforcement initiative that started in late 2010.”

Pyle also noted that nuisance party declarations have quadrupled compared to last year.

“If you recall, we developed a much stricter enforcement initiative which began in September of 2012. That same initiative led to a much more orderly ‘fest’ season during spring quarter and all ‘fests’ ended before darkness set in,” he wrote.

After years of outreach to students who live in the neighborhoods where the unsanctioned street parties — or “fests” — took place, the city continued to see unruly behavior including partiers blocking the streets and fires being set. During the largest unsanctioned event, Palmerfest, in 2012, a fire was set in the basement of a house on Palmer Street.

That summer, the city created a task force to find ways to prevent such events. The task force recommended “stringent enforcement” of the city’s existing nuisance party ordinance. The more stringent enforcement resulted in police shutting down parties for one offense instead of multiple offenses as in prior years.

The Athens City Code defines a nuisance party as a social gathering or party that results in: disorderly conduct; illegal open container; outdoor urination or defecation; unlawful sale, furnishing, dispensing or consumption of beer or intoxicating liquor; sale or furnishing of alcohol to underage persons; illegal use of controlled substance; public indecency; litter; damage or destruction of property; unlawful pedestrian or vehicular traffic; unlawful loud noise; “or any other conduct or condition that threatens injury, inconvenience, or alarm to persons or damage to property which is hereby declared to be an unlawful public nuisance.”

In the recent newsletter, Pyle also reported that APD’s increased traffic enforcement efforts in 2013 resulted in nearly 500 more traffic stops compared to the previous year.

“The positive effects of increased visibility through traffic enforcement are evasive at best, but we believe the effects are indeed positive and there is no down side to such increased enforcement. We intend to maintain elevated traffic enforcement efforts during 2014,” Pyle wrote.

Pyle also noted the success of the department’s increased community programs in 2013.

“Several community-oriented programs have been established as a result of retired Capt. Dave Williams returning part time to the department as our reserve officer in charge of community initiatives. The T.A.G. (Targeting Area Graffiti) program, the Victim Follow-up program, and Shop with a Cop programs, to name a few, are all a direct result of Officer Williams’ efforts. These programs and others provide an avenue for our officers to access a part of the community in a positive non-enforcement light, which helps to build rapport and trust among all involved.”

Pyle concluded, “I am convinced that philanthropic and service oriented efforts like these initiatives hold the most promise of positively influencing our community and decreasing future crime rates, a responsibility we take seriously at APD.”