NARRAGANSETT - The conclusion of summer means students going back to school, which for Narragansett, means a large population of student renters moving back into town. Residents have been concerned with the growing number of student rentals in town in recent years and the unruly behavior that sometimes accompanies such a demographic. In an effort to harmonize both students and year-round residents, the Narragansett Police Department is taking steps to ensure a smoother college season.
“We’re making a coordinated effort to get everyone on the same page,” said Chief of Narragansett Police Sean Corrigan. “We’re trying to make students understand that this is a residential town, not a college town.”
According to Corrigan, the police department has reached out to URI staff and local landlords, to help students understand the consequences of disorderly activity. The department held meetings with URI staff and Narragansett Town Manager James Manni in late August, as well as meeting separately with Narragansett’s 2100 group, a collection of local landlords. The idea is to engage other outlets in an effort to control student behavior, so guidance isn’t only coming from the police.
“It’s a very powerful effect when all of the adults in your life are saying the same thing, sharing the same message,” Corrigan continued. “What may be surprising is that many of the calls we get about student disturbances aren’t for fights or parties, it’s for someone slamming a car door at one in the morning, or out on their back deck making a phone call. It’s not intended to be disruptive, but it ends up being that way. You have college kids who are living the college lifestyle, and it’s not necessarily these extreme instances of behavior all the time, and then you have someone across the street who is raising a family and has to wake up early the next morning. It’s a culture clash.”
Corrigan submitted a letter to both the Narragansett 2100 group and URI, encouraging the outlets to pass the information along to students. The letter outlines what constitutes unacceptable behavior in town, and asks students to learn the local laws and meet their neighbors and be respectful. Students were also encouraged to follow Narragansett Police Department on Facebook to stay up-to-date on parking bans and other necessary information.
The effort comes in accordance with URI’s move-in day which took place last Monday. Over the course of that weekend, Narragansett Police reported over 60 arrests, 53 of which were student-related.
“That’s pretty normal for the first weekend that students are back in town,” said Corrigan. “We typically increase patrols in these opening weekends and try to set the tone.”
Currently, Narragansett Police abide by the “orange sticker” system , in which if there are five or more people on private property causing a disturbance or being a nuisance in anyway, they may be subject to receiving an orange sticker on their property. Any stickers after the first infraction means a fine of $500 per person on the residence’s lease agreement, as well as holding the landlord responsible. Community service officers handle sticker distribution according to filed police reports, and Corrigan states that after the first sticker, it is rare to see any additional violations from the residence in question. Corrigan also added that towing in certain areas begins sharply at 10 p.m., to ensure that large crowds cannot gather late at night. The rise of UBER drivers in town has helped curb drunk driving rates, but also has presented an issue in that students will linger outside in neighborhoods while waiting for their driver to arrive. Additionally, if police observe underage drinking occur at a residence, each member on the lease will be subject to being charged with the “social host” ordinance. Corrigan says many local landlords have been cooperative with the mission to control unruly student behavior by including a stipulation in the rental contract that dictates an increase in rent should the renters receive an orange sticker.
“The biggest thing is having a conversation, that’s what needs to happen,” said Corrigan. “This can’t go unconsidered. We’re trying to have students understand the reasoning and be respectful. That can’t happen if the conversation doesn’t happen.”
Corrigan concluded by saying that he was in the process of setting up a task force consisting of the Narragansett police, the student disciplinary branch of URI and the landlords, in which if a student got in trouble with the police, he/she could then meet with the police, URI and their landlord all at once to work together toward a solution. He added that URI has been “great” in recent communications.