Students Question Tactics, Motives
Cover story by Lisa Bean
have taken a lot of time that a
student doesn't have," Shor said.
Jeff Kaufman said that one
reason he did not contest his
ticket was that going to trial
would result in additional court
costs if he lost.
According to Shor, a police
officer gave her misinformation
that led her to decide not to fight
the ticket. The officer told her
that the fine would be "about 40
to 80 dollars" when in fact she
could have been fined up to $500.
Had she known this, she would
have gone to trial.
"The cop said the fine
wouldn't be more than $50, but
the judge said he never heard of
Planning a party in your
house, apartment, co-op? You
may want to set aside at least an
extra $100 for a ticket from the
Noisy Party Patrol.
The Ann Arbor Police
Department's (AAPD) Noisy
Party Patrol was established in
1986 for the weekends of the Ohio
State and Michigan State and
Homecoming football games.
But this year the patrol goes
cruising almost every weekend of
the football season, as well as on
days the police anticipate a lot of
parties. In addition, it employs
stricter methods and undercover
The Party Patrol issues 35 to
40 violations of the City Code on
an average weekend, said Lt.
Allen Hartwig of the AAPD. On
the weekend of October 18, the
Party Patrol issued 32 code
violations, including eight "noisy
party/stereo," six "minor in
possession," and 14 "open
intoxicant" citations, none of
which were as'sociated with
fraternity or sorority parties.
Hartwig said officers in the
past gauged the activity of a
party and sometimes gave a
warning before issuing a
violation. This year, however, the
AAPD has formalized its policy.
"If people should know that
they are breaking the law, they
will be ticketed without a
warning," Hartwig said. For
example, if there are a few people
in your house and the music gets a
little too loud, you will probably
be warned, Hartwig said. But if
you invite 55 people, you should
know better and will be ticketed
Undercover patrols of house
and apartment parties,
previously only an occasional
practice, have been used almost
shown on TV."
Police and city officials say
that the new, stricter
enforcement has come as a result
of an increase in loud parties,
underage drinking, disregard for
law, and residents' complaints.
Hartwig claims that there have
been "too many large parties, too
many people getting hurt, too
many street takeovers... People
used to have fear of officers...
now, they walk from party to
party with (alcohol in) a paper
Councilmember Bob Grady
(D-3rd Ward) agrees with that
"This year, a number of
neighborhood groups contacted
the Police and City Council and
said, 'Hey, are we going to have to
put up with this again this fall?"'
But many students think there
are other motives for the increased
enforcement of the ordinances.
Stevens Co-op received a noise
violation for a party held Sept. 27.
According to co-op president Jeff
Kaufman, a lot of the complaints
came from the North Burns Park
neighborhood - where Mayor
Liz Brater lives.
"That could be a factor," he
remarked. Brater could not be
reached for comment.
"My theory is that they are
doing all this because the campus
police were deputized," said
David Wille, a third-year law
student and chair of the Noise
Violation Subcommittee of the
Michigan Student Assembly's
Student Rights Commission.
When the University
deputized its police force, it
stopped paying the city to patrol
the campus. Wille said the loss in
revenue may have provided an
incentive for the Ann Arbor
cost of the Party Patrol.
But many students suggest
that the increase in ticketing
represents an increase in police
scouting, not loud parties.
"If you look hard enough for
something you will find it," said
LSA/Theater junior Miriam
Shor, who received a noise
violation for a party in
Last weekend, the Party
Patrol was inactive and issued no
tickets. Hartwig said that the
Patrol did not go out because the
police did not anticipate problems
due to the poor weather and the
football team's being away, and
that they hoped televised sporting
events would make couch
potatoes out of a lot of partiers.
'The cop said the fine
wouldn't be more than
$50, but the judge said
he never heard of any
fine below $100. He fined
- LSA junior Carrie Rosol
Many students assert that
other residents should be more
understanding of parties because
Ann Arbor is a college town.
"In the student ghetto...
(parties) are a part of college life,"
said Dannie Sullins, the president
of Debs Co-op, which received a
noise violation earlier this
Grady saw some merit in this
argument, but didn't agree with
it. "They should expect more
noise, but not the stuff that keeps
you up all night," he said.
Some students agree with
other community members'
complaints about noisy parties.
"In certain circumstances, when
someone is trying to study and
they can't get anything done, it is
an infringement on their rights,"
said an LSA junior who asked not
to be named.
Other students complain that
police should be going after "real
criminals," not someone having a
beer in a friend's house, or a few
too many people talking on a
Hartwig denied that there is an
either/or choice. "Bringing in
officers specifically (for noisy
parties) allows other officers to
deal with more important
crimes," he said. According to
Hartwig, when the Party Patrol
is not in operation, noise
complaints are a low-priority
He also said that while noise
itself is a valid concern, the noise.
violations help reduce serious
peripheral problems - including
littering, drunk driving, fighting
Many students agree that the
tickets can be warranted, but
would prefer that the police
enforce them less liberally. "Noise
violations are reasonable under
certain circumstances, but it was
a weekend... and it was before 1
a.m. I don't think we were
keeping anyone awake," Sullins
"A law is a law, but they need
to use discretion," Shor said.
"What if it were adults at a
potluck or the boss of a big
corporation? It's obviously
because we are college.students."
Wille believes that the code
was written to apply only to
particularly egregious situations.
"Just because the city has the
statute, doesn't mean it was
intended to be enforced in the
manner it has been," he said.
Many also question the
subjectivity of the code and its t
According to Kaufman, the
police who ticketed his party
admitted that his house was quiet
and that they weren't sure why
they were issuing the citation,
but did so anyway because
someone had made a complaint.
Chapter 119, section 9:362 of
the Ann Arbor City Code, the
general ordinance under which
most people are ticketed, states,
"It shall be unlawful for any
person to create, assist in
creating, permit, continue or
permit the continuance of any
unreasonably loud, disturbing,
unusual or unnecessary noise
which annoys, disturbs, injures
or endangers the comfort, repose,
health, peace or safety of others
within the limits of the city of
This could be taken to mean
that a neighbor's complaint,
without police verification, is
sufficient evidence to issue a
violation. Shor does not see any
justice in this. "I have to pay $100
because someone else thought I
There is federal precedent, said
Wille, for considering parts of the
noise statute unconstitutional,
and a court in the State of
Michigan struck down a nearly
going undercover at parties.m
"It's ridiculous. There's no
reason for cops to do that. It's one
thing to ask for I.D., but to be
undercover is taking it way too
far," Sullins said.
"If you let them in, they are in.
But if they say that they are not a
cop, there's some question if
that's a violation of law," said
Doug Lewis, the director of
Student Legal Services.
Some students said they have
heard of officers operating kegs at
parties. Assistant City Attorney
Thomas Blessing said he knew of
"no instance of any officer
serving beer to a minor. It's very
Some people also question the
legality of the police force's
practice of stopping people on the
street and asking them what is in
their cup or for identification.
These methods of checking for
open intoxicants and minors in
possession of alcohol frequently
lead to citations.
Judges say an officer has
probable cause to ask what is in a
cup because a person walking
down the street and drinking is
frequently consuming alcohol,
Hartwig said that police
officers cannot ignore illegal
actions that are in their "plain
view" and that underage drinking
in front of an officer would fall
under this category.
Lewis challenged this practice:
"One could argue, how could you
plainly view if one is a minor?"
The Noisy Party Task Force
was set up this summer to address
dthe concerns of the community,
city officials say. The Task
Force, which met through the
beginning of this semester,
included City Council members,
community volunteers, and a
representative from both the
Interfraternity Council and the
The Task Force did not
include other student
representatives because of
difficulties reaching them during
the summer, and because "the
Task Force was an outgrowth
from specific public complaints
about fraternity noise," Grady
The College Democrats met
with Grady and the Greek system
representatives on Oct. 6 to
discuss the issue. College
Democrats President Dana Miller
said that students approached her
group because it is in frequent
contact with the City Council.
According to her, they were most
concerned with the use of
undercover police and the
possibility of a 90-day jail
sentence for third time offenders.
Following these meetings, the
possible jail sentence was changed
to community service and
minimum fines were set for first,
second and third offenders at $50,
$100, and $200, respectively.
Grady said that the minimums
would "theoretically reduce the
incentive to violate the law."
Most student initiatives thus
far have focused on reducing
confrontations, not challenging
the methods of enforcement and
the law itself. A recent discussion
on an MTS conference for the
Inter-Cooperative Council, for
example, dealt mainly with how
to restrict parties in order to avoid
hassles with police.
Wille said that the Noise
Violation Subcommittee was
formed after some law students
started getting tickets and came
to the conclusion that the police
were getting out of hand. In his
opinion, the only way to change
the situation would be for
someone to get the ordinance or
the enforcement method struck
down as unconstitutional.
"Students are very busy," he
said. "They don't have the time to
lobby City Council. They are not
a politically powerful group."
Wille's committee is planning
to work on getting the city to give
warnings before issuing
violations so that students can
have the opportunity to break up
the party first. It plans to do more
work next semester, when its
members will have more time to
Students who receive
violations can go to Student Legal
Services for free advice and
representation. Lewis said that
this year approximately 35
percent of the students who come
in do so for such violations. Last
week, his office represented 12
clients in court and 16 the week
Students can also attain noise
permits before they have a party.
The permits allow the holder to
maintain a noise level of up to 61
decibels until 1 a.m. The police
keep the permits on file and check
them if they receive a complaint.
They can, however, issue a ticket
without warning if the
restrictions are not observed.
Central Permit Desk Manager
Jeff Ellis said he receives one or
!FOOL FOR LOVES
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There is federal precedent... fc
the noise statute unconstituti
the State of Michigan struck
identical provision as uncons
two inquiries each week about
noise permits for student parties,
but students often get discouraged
and don't apply when they learn
about the restrictions.
Ironically, it is nearly
impossible to receive a noise
violation or minor in possession
citation in a dormitory, despite
the fact that neighbors say it is
far easier to disturb neighbors in
Allan Levy, assistant director
of University Housing, said that
if a student has a party in a
dormitory room that attracts a
lot of attention, the residence
staff will initially only speak to
the student about the rules. Then,
if the situation continues or
reoccurs, there is a "progressive
disciplinary system which in a
verv few cases ends with the
Student Legal Services Director Doug Lewis advises a student. Students can receive free
egal advice or representation for noise violation, minor in possession and open intoxicant
tickets as well as other matters.
When the University deputized its police force, it
stopped paying the city to patrol the campus.
(MSA Noise Violation subcommittee chair David)
Wille said the loss in revenue may have provided
an incentive for the Ann Arbor police to collect
fines for other offenses.
identical provision as
unconstitutionally vague. A
Noisy Party Patrol sergeant
would not define the criteria for
issuing a noise violation. She said
that it depended on the particular
While many students do not
think that noise violations are
always unjustified, many feel
that the warnings should be given
before violations are issued.
"If you are disturbing
someone, you should be
confronted, but you should be
warned first," Kaufman said.
"When the police came, we shut
the party down in five minutes."
"Since they have people who
specifically work on parties, they
should be even more likely to give
warnings, because they have the
time to come back," Shor said.
Many students complain
about the difficulty of contesting
a ticket that they feel is
unjustified. "I don't think we
were being loud. I could have
taken it to court, but that would
any fine below $100. He fined us
$125," said LSA junior Carrie
An AAPD sergeant said that
police officers are not allowed to
give out that kind of information.
Although the maximum fine
is indeed $500, most students
receive a $100 fine for their first
offense. If a person plea bargains,
the charge is generally reduced to
a civil infraction and the case is
dismissed after the fine is paid.
However, those who plead not
guilty risk additional court fees
and a misdemeanor on their record
should they lose.
Some students also allege that
police are not following proper
procedure in issuing violations at
parties. "The cop said something
like, I want you to have your
party, just go to court and plead
guilty, they'll give you a lesser
charge,"' Shor recounted. "Cops
can't give that kind of advice."
Many students question the
legality and the necessity of police
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every weekend this year. "These
are not for the noise of the parties,
but for the alcohol," Hartwig
said. "They are just standard
police officers, but not in
uniforms... not the bearded type
police to collect fines for other
"The city is looking for some
cash," Kaufman agreed.
However, Grady said that the
tickets essentially just cover the
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November 1, 1991