CCSU meets with neighbors to address off-campus issues

NEW BRITAIN -- Community members and leaders gathered at Central Connecticut State University to come up with solutions to off-campus partying, and other complaints.

This is the first, "Town and Gown," meeting of the school year and the university plans to hold three more.

It's an opportunity for neighbors, students, university staff, city leaders and local police to gather and discuss problems they face and how to reach solutions.

The meeting comes on the heels of the arrest of several CCSU football players following a rowdy off-campus party on September 9 at a home located at 64 Roxbury Road, in New Britain. Police said there was a party at the same location on September 2nd in which officers counted roughly 140 people at the house. Police ticketed the students living at the home that night.

At Monday night's meeting, New Britain Police shared their efforts to patrol parties off-campus, saying they've spent about $10,000 in overtime over the past four weeks. The police chief said this is a much more aggressive financial commitment to this issue, than last year. He said they are not using taxpayer money; however, these funds being used could be spent elsewhere in the city.

New Britain Police released data regarding calls for service in the area of CCSU on the weekends between August 24-September 14th. The department got a total of 102 complaints: 9 noise complaints, 56 parking complaints, 5 disturbance complaints, 32 loud party complaints, 2 confirmed vandalism's and 2 EMS assists.

A year-to-year comparison between 2016-2017 shows the number of complaints have actually dropped since last year in all areas, except parking.

Police are hoping a larger presence, additional patrols and emphasis on off-hours enforcement will help set expectations to students off-campus early.

According to CCSU Police, they have dished out about $16,500 in OT for staff since the end of August.

"To us, it's getting us out there that we can concentrate on that without leaving the campus community without wondering how many police officers are once campus," CCSU Sgt. Jerry Erwin said.

Sgt. Erwin said the beginning of the semester always tends to be the busiest time for police involving students off-campus.

"They have to realize if you took 200 students walking through your neighborhood at home, how would your mom and dad feel?" he said.

Neighbors at Monday night's meeting said off-campus partying has gotten worse over the past few years. William Crosby who has lived there for 17 years said he would like to see students have a curfew.

"We pay quite a bit in taxes, we feel the quality of life in our neighborhood has decreased substantially because of this behavior and in some ways it seems overwhelming to both the police and the school," Crosby said.

At the meeting, University President Zulma Toro said she is committed to finding a solution to the issues off-campus through four major steps: (1) Creating an education program for students regarding how they're expected to behave. (2) Looking at finances. Toro said the university is facing financial difficulties due to budget restraints, resulting in reduced police officers and hours; however, she said they're committed to adding more resources and using them in more effective ways. (3) Working with coaches to enforce expectations regarding athlete behavior. (4) Establishing a strong partnership with the community, meeting on a more regular basis. This also includes working with the city's elected officials to look at and possibly change some ordinances.

At the meeting, the office of student conduct said it goes into neighborhoods and stops by homes, including those they receive complaints about, to remind students to be good neighbors.

Other issues brought up by community members at the meeting were off-campus parking and enforcing the amount of tenants in a home.

President Toro said she plans to address these issues and hold another meeting to inform the public on changes being made.

"You have my commitment that I will be more than happy to share with you the progress on the implementation of that plan," she said. "If we are not able to get the situation under control I agree we are failing to our students and we are failing to our tax payers."