Buell Street Beat

It’s 11pm on a Friday and two Burlington Police cruisers make a slow, deliberate turn onto Buell Street and continue down the street quietly. Two years ago, this scene would have raised eyebrows with the UVM student residents of Buell street, but today such a scene evokes mild curiosity and a modicum of outrage. The police patrols in and around the “Hills area” (the area from North Street to Cliff Street, and Union Street to South Burlington) of Burlington saw a dramatic increase since Daniel Fogel’s August 23rd Press Conference, which outlined nine new initiatives designed to confront and combat the “quality of life” issues between off campus UVM students and Burlington residents. The nine new initiatives outlined by Fogel included more cooperation between UVM and the Burlington Police Department, in dealing with one of the main conflicts facing UVM students and Burlington residents: noise More specifically, the growing concern that UVM students are responsible for a majority of the noise violations in Burlington’s most notorious areas. Although the Burlington Police Department and UVM have been actively cooperating to address the noise concerns outlined by the Fogel administration, many Burlington residents have decided on a more proactive approach to Burlington’s noise problem by forming the Joint Noise Initiative. The Joint Noise Initiative consists of the Neighbor Action Program and it’s Buell Street counterpart, the Buell Street Association. “It hasn’t been just two streets. The community made it clear that they wanted to know why it was so noisy downtown. They wanted to know what we were going to do about it. They asked the University to help. They came up with a plan on what was going to be done. They agreed to do a joint noise patrol on Thursday, Friday, and, Saturday nights,” said Burlington Police Lieutenant, Rich Long.Added Long: “They’re not out looking for noisy houses, they’re looking for large groups of people. The feedback we have gotten so far has been pretty positive.” While the goal of the Joint Noise Initiative, NAP, and the Buell Street Association all hinge on education and enforcement of Burlington’s noise ordinances, many off-campus UVM students question the legitimacy of such organizations.”It’s basically like having unofficial policemen on a power trip. It’s a politically correct way of saying we want everything [noise] to stop,” said UVM Junior and Buell Street resident Andrew.”It obviously sucks. They’re treating us like we’re in high school. It feels like we’re in the dorms now. [UVM] should do what other schools do, and have their own police force, instead of relying on Burlington to police its students.”Although NAP and its Buell Street counterpart seek “self sufficient” solutions to the noise problems in the Burlington “Hills area”, they reserve the right to contact landlords of houses they deem “too noisy”.While the Joint Noise Initiative have sought independent solutions, they continue to work closely with the Burlington Police Department and UVM. Police officers often accompany NAP, and Daniel Fogel has even been present on at least one patrol.The NAP-UVM-Burlington Police Department coalition has many students questioning the wisdom of such an alliance.”I think UVM gets blamed for a lot of things in this town. They get over analyzed. They’re a scapegoat for the town. Is Fogel the mayor? It seems like he’s making all the decisions around here,” commented UVM Junior, John.The Joint Noise Initiative has thus far been effective, with several arrests being attributed to their patrols and one Buell Street house being charged with furnishing alcohol to minors.”95% of the people we come in contact with are decent people. This is mostly a lifestyle clash we’re seeing,” said Rich Long, Burlington Police Lieutenant. One of UVM’s Quality of Life Initiatives In close cooperation with the mayor and with Burlington police, the university will expand its follow-up program to include an immediate contact with every student receiving a quality of life related citation, rather than waiting for that violation to be adjudicated. UVM will place students on notice that administrators are aware that a citation has been issued and that university disciplinary action may follow. As noted earlier, such interventions are very effective in preventing repeat offenses; the university will now be intervening much earlier.