A neighbor’s call to police can wreck a party, damage relationships and waste time better spent keeping the community safe.
That’s why the Chapel Hill Police Department and its UNC partners launched the Party Registration Program this week in neighborhoods and apartment complexes throughout the town. The program does not apply to parties in common areas, such as pools, garages and parks.
Registration also doesn’t protect partygoers or hosts from other violations, including open containers, underage drinking and public urination.
The goal is not to stop students from having fun, said Elinor Landess, director of the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce the Negative Impacts of High Risk Drinking.
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“Our hope is that this will give students an opportunity to take responsibility prior to any intervention, and if an intervention is needed – like a text or call – then they will be able to take responsibility for themselves and their guests,” she said.
The program lets students register their off-campus parties online and at UNC’s Office of Community Involvement in Granville Towers South. If police get a noise complaint about a registered party, they will call or text the hosts, giving them 20 minutes to lower the volume or end the party.
If another noise call comes in about the same party, a police officer will investigate and could issue a citation, costing the party’s host up to $150, plus $173 in court costs, public safety spokesman Ran Northam said. Loud parties that aren’t registered may be cited for the first call.
Residents who register their parties but get two consecutive warnings will lose their registration privileges for 90 days. They can lose privileges for one year for a citation.
The program only applies to parties held on Fridays and Saturdays, because they are trying to discourage weekday parties, said Aaron Bachenheimer, UNC director of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Community Involvement.
“The reality is that while folks may have parties on other nights of the week, frankly, we’d like to discourage that,” he said. If you live in a residential neighborhood, most people work Monday through Friday.”
Chapel Hill limits daytime noise in residential neighborhoods to 50 decibels, about as loud as a normal conversation. The limit drops to 45 decibels, or just above a soft whisper, between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight through 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
While UNC’s program is unique in North Carolina – Bachenheimer said Wake Forest officials recently contacted him about it – similar programs are in place at the University of Colorado in Boulder and University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported in June that 333 student parties were registered in Amherst during the 2016-17 school year. Of those, 34 complaints generated warning calls and one citation was issued.
UNC’s program is another tool for improving neighborhood relations, said Bachenheimer, who noted existing programs – the Good Neighbor Initiative and its Neighborhood Education and Advocacy Team – already are reducing calls. The number fell about 20 percent from August 2015 to May 2017, he said, and they usually see a spike in August and September – to 25 to 30 calls – and during big events.
Students who generate noise complaints also get a visit from Bachenheimer and a police investigator, who talk with them about what happened and what they could do differently next time.
The registration program educates students before the party starts, he said, and gives officers more time to deal with community safety.
“When we have some of the bigger nights,” Northam said, “that’s when our patrol officers are a little more stretched thin. That’s when we just want to make sure the resources are being used to the community’s best benefit, so that they’re able to respond to an emergency if that does arise.”
Planning your party
To register your next Friday or Saturday night party, fill out the preliminary form online and stop by the Office of Community Involvement on the first floor of Granville Towers South, Suite 2100, by 5 p.m. Thursday to complete your registration.
Someone living at the house must register the party using a UNC One Card, two contact people, two cell phone numbers, and their Chapel Hill address.
Find tips for throwing a Safe Party at unc.live/2CVEu81.