Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Select Board reviews bylaws statistics

By William Perkins

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Hannah Cohen/Collegian

A batch of mixed results has come out of an assessment of recent violations of Amherst’s noise and alcohol bylaws.

Members of the town’s Select Board last night were brought up-to-speed on newly-compiled bylaw violation data by Police Chief Scott Livingstone, who elaborated on the results in a presentation.

The data – which details all violations of noise, open container, keg and nuisance household bylaws from Sept. 1 of last year to March 1 of this year – shows that there has been a 38 percent increase in noise violations and a 229 percent increase in nuisance house offenses, while there has been a 16 percent decrease in the open container and a 40 percent decrease in keg offenses compared to 2009-2010.

One-hundred and sixty-six people were arrested, summoned to court or cited for unlawful noise violations during the assessment period, up from 120 compared to data from 2009-10.  There was also a 35 percent increase in calls reporting such noise infractions, which Livingstone noted could have led to the increase of reported violations.

 Forty-six people were arrested and summoned to court or issued citations for violating the nuisance household bylaw, which imposes liability on owners and residents who make loud noises or allow underage students to drink – a marked increase in offenses compared to the 2009-10 data, when only 14 people were charged with such offenses.

“There’s a pretty dramatic increase in those,” Livingstone said of the nuisance house bylaw violations, noting that the large increase in officer-reported offenses could have resulted from officers being able to better define and cite such households in violation it.

One-hundred and sixty-two people were arrested, summoned to court or cited for infractions pertaining to the open container bylaw – which bars denizens from possessing open alcoholic containers on public property – in the assessment, a decrease of 16 percent of violations compared to last year’s figures. Livingstone said this decrease could be attributed to officers’ better educating community members of when they would be in violation of the bylaw, noting that not everyone perceived in violation of the law is arrested or cited.

And 12 people were arrested and summoned to court or issued citations for violating the town’s keg bylaw, which requires everyone in possession of kegs to hold a town-issued license, during the assessment period. This is a 40 percent decrease from the number of offenses reported in 2009-10.

“Really, we don’t have a big, big issue now with kegs,” Livingstone said, adding that the department believes kegs no longer seem to be a main attraction at student parties.

Additionally, Livingstone noted, the assessment shows there weren’t many repeat offenders of infractions.

“The number of repeat offenders is really nonexistent,” Livingstone said. There were only six people who violated the bylaws more than once during the assessment period – slightly better than the number of people who violated the bylaws in the 2009-10 assessment, which totaled seven.

 Last spring, members of Amherst’s Town Meeting voted to increase the fines for violations of any of the four bylaws to $300 per offense – the maximum amount the Commonwealth allows municipalities to charge for such offenses.  One goal of the increase was to deter people from committing the offenses.

“The increase in the town bylaw fine is, I think, getting the message across – at least for the repeat offenders,” Livingstone said.

He added that police tend to issue citation tickets rather than arrests because it saves officers’ time – allowing for them to focus on other issues.

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe noted that the bylaws are part of a “multifaceted effort” with the University of Massachusetts to work in cooperation on town issues. She added that the cooperation of both entities is part of an effort to “find the right balance of quality of life.”

 Additionally, Julie Federman, the town’s health director, noted the bylaws are part of a larger effort to improve the safety and health of Amherst’s neighborhoods. The effort also includes possibly implementing tobacco use regulations at some properties, reviewing the UMass Student Code of Conduct, and commencing an outreach and education program on landlords’ rights and responsibilities.

Elsewhere last night, members approved a measure that will implement new parking pay-and-display machines in parts of downtown Amherst. The machines will be implemented in several different phases, with the first phase slated to occur this spring.

William Perkins can be reached at [email protected]

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