Throwing a party? Police give tips to easily avoid problems with ordinance violations
When Brendan Chapman decided to have an outdoor party with about 25 neighbors and close friends, two blow-up pools and a game of beer pong, he didn’t expect the three violations the police left on the door of his house.
When parties get out of hand and the police step in, there are violations students can face, but certain measures can be taken to avoid trouble, keep everyone safe and prevent high fines.
Wrong side of the law
From noon to about 7 or 8 p.m., the party managed to generate violations for public nuisance, container placement and the new party litter ordinance from a Parking & Code Enforcement, or PACE, officer, Chapman, a human biology senior, said.
The party litter ordinance allows PACE officers to give out a ticket without forewarning the tenants if the offense is thought to be serious.
Chapman said after the party ended, he left his house and came home to three citations on his door issued at 11:30 p.m.
“The cop didn’t even stop by to talk to us, he wrote it up when we left,” Chapman said. “I’ve heard about party trash (violations), so we cleaned up after we left.”
Chapman said the only items left in front of his house were a table and some cups on the porch.
East Lansing police captain Bill Mitchell said the most common violation students are written up for is the noise ordinance. This can be given out at parties where the noise level is disturbing to neighbors, caused by loud music or shouting from party guests.
Mitchell said the student apartment and housing areas are the most common locations he has written up students at parties.
“That normally comes from a complaint — somebody just feels the party’s out of hand, out of control, too loud, disturbing the neighborhood and then we respond,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the second-most common violation as a result of a party is the minor in possession ordinance, or MIP.
James Madison sophomore Michelle Parker, whose name has been changed, received an MIP in the beginning of March at the intersection of Harrison Road and Michigan Avenue after attending a house party.
“I was walking like I was drunk and the cops asked me and a couple of my friends to blow, and I blew a high number,” Parker said. “I went to jail for the night.”
Parker said she got off easy with a sentence of 15 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, while most people who get an MIP also have to pay $400. Parker knows this because she said she knows a lot of classmates who have received MIPs.
The party’s over
Overcrowding, noise which is audible from a distance, trash around the party area or a party that spills out into streets, sidewalks or neighbor’s yards are some of the signs of a big party, Mitchell said.
“We do get occasionally the big, out of control party, and those can get quite expensive, fast,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the best precaution to take to avoid trouble is to know your neighbors and warn them when you plan to throw a party.
“The biggest thing is to keep your parties under control and not just an open invitation to the world,” Mitchell said. “You are responsible for your party guests, whether you know them or not.”
The cost of a violation is discretionary, depending on the amount of cooperation the police receives from the party guests, he said.
“If people there are making an effort, or if it seems like (the noise level) really isn’t that bad, that can be a discretionary factor where instead they will be given a warning,” Mitchell said.
The violations Chapman faces will cost $130 for the party litter ordinance, $205 for the public nuisance and a warning for container placement. Chapman plans on challenging the violations.
Mitchell said summer in East Lansing is slow in terms of students who get written up, mainly because of the lack of students.
Chapman said this lack of activity was the reason he got in trouble for container placement because he said both his house and other residences on his street have kept their containers out all year.
“I’ve never been written up before and we’ve had much bigger parties,” Chapman said.
“(The police) tagged on container placement only because they can.”
Mitchell said one way to avoid fines and keep a party safe is to fill out a form to register your party, but it is not a guarantee tickets will not be given out at the gathering.
“All it is, is you’re being cooperative with the police, you’re stating that ‘we’re going to have a party,’” Mitchell said. “You’re telling us how many guests are invited and coming and who is in charge and who is responsible and somebody that we can be in contact with should we get a complaint and we need to go there and talk with somebody.”
Mitchell said another option to end a party when it gets out of hand is to call the police to help break it up.
“We’ll help people go, we’ve done that before, where suddenly a party kind of gets taken over by all these people that they don’t know, and then it’s like, ‘well, we didn’t want all this,’” Mitchell said.
Parker said she now knows the ways to stay safe when partying and alcohol is involved and wishes she had been smarter the night she got an MIP.
She said there are things students can do to avoid an MIP and she wishes she would have followed them that night.
“Not drinking to excess, be careful where you walk, be careful of your surroundings, be in a safe place and (don’t drink) underage,” she said.
“If I had been aware of my surroundings I might have seen the cops.”