Police to step up patrols

  Double keggers, beware.   The University has partnered with the Burlington Police Department (BPD) to increase the number of police officers in several Burlington neighborhoods on weekend nights.   In a news release issued by UVM, Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling said that this pilot program, which is being tested for an eight-week period starting this spring, is meant to respond to “quality of life” and noise complaints from some Burlington residents.   The program will allow up to six to eight extra officers assigned to neighborhood patrols, the Burlington Free Press stated.   Although UVM will be footing the $35,000 per semester bill, some administrators believe the program will prove to be a good investment.   “Frustration is high,” President John Bramley said.  “We and the BPD are taking this step to try to improve the situation for our neighbors and show that we take their concerns seriously.”   There are other, more unacceptable and impractical proposals than this one floating around, Bramley said.   Some proposals include limiting streets where students can walk and requiring all undergraduate students to live on campus, he said.   Joe Speidel, director of community relations, said the sustainability of the pilot program would be based on various measures of success.   “One thing that’s going to be intangible will be reports from students and police,” he said. “More tangible will be looking at the number of violations and the type of violation. More policing might mean more policy.”   Speidel said he believes the program will provide a forum for more dialogue between students and BPD officers, making their presence less punitive and more of a deterrent.   “One area we can improve in is the visibility of officers,” he said. “We’re hoping that officers will be talking to students when there isn’t a problem.”   Both Speidel and Bramley agree that despite the attention community relations receives, the relationship between students and Burlington residents is generally good and has improved over the years.   “I hope that it will demonstrate that not all problems that occur in the neighborhoods are caused by UVM students,” Bramley said.   Some students are not so much concerned with the increase in officers, but rather how the money to fund the program is going to be used.   “We need to hold ourselves responsible for our actions off campus,” junior Tom Campbell said. “But we also need to hold the administration and Burlington police responsible so that these funds are used to protect students, not as an unfair tax on them.”   Strained town-gown relations have become a hot-button issue in the city’s mayoral race—particularly, the need for the next mayor to re-negotiate a new Memorandum for Understanding agreement that dates back to 2007.   The current agreement amounts to $1,173,295, and is set to expire on June 30, according to the Burlington Free Press.   As a result, UVM agreed with developing this pilot program to assuage concerns from the city of Burlington that the University wasn’t doing enough.   Charlie Kelley, a junior who lives off-campus, said the program is a good idea but there will be limitations, considering some neighborhoods are more heavily concentrated with college students than others.   “It’s a college town, kids are going to inevitably drink,” Kelley said. “There needs to be a balance between over-policing and allowing families to have peace and quiet   “There comes a point where you have to keep your catamount paws off the party scene,” Kelley said.   Jake Amato, another junior who lives off-campus, said there already are enough police patrolling Burlington neighborhoods and offered an alternative solution.   “I think the only way they might be able to reduce the noise in Burlington is to increase the fine for noise violations,” he said. “This would also be a more cost-effective way to reduce the noise.”   Meredith Clayton, a Burlington resident, said that she and her husband were college students once and are happy to put up with some amounts of noise on weekends.   “But there are certainly times when there seems to be a lack of respect,” she said. “We’ve had drunk kids knock on our door thinking they’re at a party; it would be nice to see more patrolling.”   Clayton said the volume of broken beer bottles that litter her street is a major issue for families in her neighborhood.   Some residents who live close to campus, like Elizabeth Banyon, do not view students who live off-campus as a problem.   “There was one incident, but they came right over the next day to apologize and even made us cupcakes,” she said.   Both Clayton and Banyon agreed that more communication between students and their neighbors before students throw a party or have friends over was the best way to alleviate some of the tension.