Patrols cut in Brookline student neighborhoods

by Beacon Staff • October 14, 2007

The Brookline Police Department halved its fledgling weekend-night patrol squad last week, cutting the supplemental four-officer unit formed to reign in neighborhoods that attract rowdy college students on weekends, because of budget constraints and a decrease in complaints, Brookline Police Captain John O'Leary said.

The cut was made possible by improved behavior in those neighborhoods and made necessary by overspending on overtime wages for the unit, he said. The officers worked the extra night patrols for more than a month and were paid between $40 and $65 per hour for the 11 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday shifts.

Regular night patrols and the extra officers are responsible for covering the area around Egmont Street, a residential zone popular with college students primarily from Boston University. O'Leary said he felt the supplemental patrol was a short-term solution to a long-term problem stemming mainly from underage drinking.

"Basically what we'd like for the long term is compliance from students despite the lesser force," O'Leary said. "We're trying to bring it under manageable control with just the two extra officers and the regular patrol to keep a handle on things."

In September, the department received 62 noise and public nuisance complaints from Brookline residents, occurring mostly between 1 and 4 a.m. October saw only 40 complaints and there have been six so far in November, O'Leary said.

Student-populated neighborhoods in Brookline do not foster much violent crime, O'Leary said. Residents are most often cited for making noise in the streets after returning home from local bars.

He said college administrators, landlords and the police should be working together to curb neighborhood disturbances on weekend nights.

"Kids are abusing alcohol excessively, and underage drinking is creating the problem," O'Leary said. "It has to be a comprehensive effort because it can't just be the police. It has to be everybody working towards not eliminating the problem but at least getting it under control."

According to Boston University's Police's Web site, two of the university's 12 Brookline properties were broken into in 2006, and a bike was stolen outside a third building. No other crimes were reported.

Emerson does not own property in Brookline, but 107 of its students list the town as their place of residence, according to Elin Riggs, coordinator of off-campus student services.

Riggs said an area's safety is an important concern for students looking to live off-campus. She said while Brookline is not one of the areas Emerson students consider dangerous, fewer students live in the town because it is relatively far from campus.

In the last six months, the Emerson College Police Department expanded its patrol by hiring four new officers, including one specifically for the hotel dorms, and promoted two officers to sergeant, ECPD Lt. Eric Schiazza said. The night patrol always consists of three to five officers: a dispatcher, supervisor and two or three regular police officers.

O'Leary said BU's Police Department does not have jurisdiction in Brookline outside of the buildings the university owns. Private residencies fall under the Brookline PD's jurisdiction, but O'Leary said the department relays all student incidents to BU student affairs personnel to foster communication and cooperation.

Colin Riley, BU's spokesperson, said the Brookline police brought the problem to their attention as noise complaints arose. He said the university expects its students to behave, but that BUPD cannot patrol off-campus residences in Brookline.

"Students' hours are a little bit different than those of the other residents," Riley said. "Our students should comport themselves in a way that significantly exceeds civil law and custom. They should be exemplary citizens."

Emerson senior Tori Steere, who lives in an apartment in Brookline, said despite the large student population, the neighborhood was not loud enough to merit noise complaints. However, she said she didn't feel the relative quiet was a justifiable reason to cut out the extra night patrol.

"As a resident I feel confident walking home late at night because I know we have a consistent police presence, and we have not had a lot of trouble in our area," the communication studies major said.

"I don't know if cutting the patrols will make a difference, but I can't speak for other parts of Brookline. Around here, it is quiet but we also have pretty consistent police presence at night, so that might be why."