By Katia Protsenko
UC Santa Cruz has given $25,000 to the Santa Cruz Police Department to help further enforce and control off-campus parties.
The decision stems from a December meeting between Westside residents and UCSC Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal.
According to police spokesman Zach Friend, the money will be used to help pay overtime hours for current officers. He approximated that the $25,000 will cover officers’ overtime pay for every weekend this quarter.
“[In the past year], there were over 2,600 service calls, but only four tickets were given,” Friend said. “This issue takes up a lot of the police department’s time.”
Friend added that the problem with neighborhood parties does not solely lie with UCSC students, but with all college-age people in general.
City Councilmember Mike Rotkin agrees that UCSC students’ off-campus partying is a major problem, but said that giving money to the SCPD is only one step in the right direction.
“The city welcomes the university’s help with this problem,” Rotkin stated, “but the $25,000 doesn’t come close to what is needed.”
Rotkin added that minimizing out-of-control parties cannot be done just by heightening police presence.
“It’s an education issue rather than a need for more police enforcement,” Rotkin said.
Friend agreed that quelling rowdy gatherings will not be achieved simply by adding patrols.
“The university is taking the first step, but there needs to be a greater approach,” Friend said. “Information needs to get out about consequences for parties that might get out of hand.”
UCSC students Rosanna Gehret and Alexander Reed-Krase, who both live off campus, feel that police are sometimes too strict with college kids just having a good time.
“I’ve been to parties where the cops came, but gave no citations,” Gehret said. “The laws are too strict, and the cops feel bad. It’s just some kids having fun.”
“Personally, I think they should break up parties during the week, because people need to be up early the next day,” Reed-Krase said. “On Fridays and Saturdays, they should be more lenient.”
Reed-Krase also pondered the deeper reasons behind why there are so many house parties in Santa Cruz.
“Santa Cruz is an expensive city,” he said. “There are no cheap places for students to hang out.”
Both Gehret and Reed-Krase agreed that the $25,000 given by the university could have been put to better use.
“[More] money should be put toward dealing with substance abuse, not just substance use,” Gehret said.
But Friend said that wild house parties present a number of problems for the community and police department.
“For the Santa Cruz police, the problems [with partying] are multiple. It impacts the neighbors’ quality of life, and there are experiences of physical and sexual assault,” he said. “There has been violence to police officers, and gang members are attracted [to these parties].”
Addressing these problems, Councilmember Rotkin reiterated the importance of educating a fraternizing student body.
“There are programs on campus that educate about having fun with safety in mind,” he said. “It’s not about shame, but it’s about the idea of a fun time with music and friends. It’s about being safe, and not destroying the quality of life of neighboring residents.”