By EDITORIAL BOARD
Under a law passed this summer, residents now have the power to quiet their neighbors with hefty fines from the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). This law, proposed by our City Councilwoman, Mary Pat Clarke, has already had an impact on fraternities and other student groups that throw parties in their Charles Village houses.
Noisy residents will get a $500 fine for their first offense and $1000 fines for every subsequent offense within 12 months. The law also allows landlords to waive the fines by evicting the residents.
Although Charles Village residents could call the BPD to break up noisy parties before the July law was passed, they had less of an incentive to do so. Before, the BPD would only write up a report on the situation and the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development would investigate further if necessary.
Non-student residents typically call Hopkins Student/Community Liaison Jon Walter, who will approach noisy houses and warn them to tone things down before the BPD have to get involved. Hopkins Campus Security will also break up parties if enough people have complained about the noise.
The Editorial Board agrees that it is fair for the city to have such a law – after all, everyone should have the right to peace and quiet in his or her own home. We also believe that such a law puts the onus on fraternities and other student organizations to party responsibly and discourages the type of open ragers where students are most at risk. However, it is troubling that the campus officials who know the Hopkins student community best, especially Walter and Campus Security, could be more easily bypassed in favor of the BPD, which is less familiar with the Hopkins community.
The Editorial Board believes the best course of action would be for Hopkins to act as a mediator between Hopkins students and Charles Village residents. Because campus officials are more familiar with our issues and problems, they will inherently have better and more simple solutions for solving them. Yes, sometimes the police need to get involved, but ideally, Campus Security would still be the first line of call, as in the previous system.
We are also wary of the intentions expressed by Councilwoman Clarke. Clarke cited recent studies conducted by the University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health related to underage drinking, and said that these types of laws could help make underage drinking less “peer-popular” by limiting opportunities where underage students might find alcohol. The Editorial Board believes that this approach is misguided. Will freshmen have less opportunities to get drunk with their peers if fraternities are forced to tone down their parties? Absolutely. Fraternities will naturally be encouraged to limit their guest lists to brothers and a select group of friends designated on a guest list. However, students — both freshmen and seniors alike — are going to find ways to drink, regardless of whether they’re playing pong at a frat party or in the comfort of the AMRs. We understand that the issue of underage drinking is a difficult one to solve, but it is just important to realize that this new law does very little to curb it.
Ultimately, the Editorial Board understands the basis for the law but also recognizes it will do fairly little in achieving Clarke’s designed goal. There are better solutions than immediately resorting to the police.