The City of Kalamazoo hosted a virtual town hall Monday, Feb. 22 to discuss with the community how public safety should address mobile nuisance parties.
“Mobile nuisance parties have been a problem for far too long,” said Vernon Coakley, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief. “We are hosting this town hall discussion to have an open dialogue with our community about plans for addressing them in 2021 and into the future.”
This town hall comes after previous attempts to address mobile nuisance parties. In 2019, a mobile nuisance ordinance was passed, stating partygoers could face a fine up to $500 and 90 days in jail. Per the ordinance, a nuisance party is defined as a gathering where people engage in littering, underage drinking or fighting, among other activities.
“(They’re) literally holding people like hostage in their houses doing all the noise, the littering, the loitering, the destruction of personal property,” said Stephanie Williams, a Kalamazoo resident who lives on Paterson Street. “The most vulnerable people, senior citizens and even kids, who have to get up and see that their hard-working earnings that they put in their homes and their pride in home ownership, now has gone away. It's horrible.”
Last March, the city issued a State of Emergency to prevent city wide parties in response to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's previous ban on gatherings of over 250 people, due to COVID-19.
The city began collecting vehicle data last year for vehicles that were involved in a nuisance party. From March to May of last year, 120 warning letters were issued to people involved in house parties, said David Boysen, Assistant Chief of Investigations.
The city planned to step up enforcement efforts in May of last year but was disrupted due to COVID-19.
Williams said she was horrified at what nuisance parties have done to vulnerable neighborhoods.
“There is a lot of things I think we could do to address this issue.” Williams said. “We’re talking about a behavior that has happened for so long and gone unchecked for so long, that some people have normalized.”
WMU Student Robert Trey Thomas, who asked to be referred to as ‘Ice Trey,’ addressed two of the most well-known nuisance parties at WMU: House Crawl and St. Patrick’s Day. He said he believed these parties can bring everyone together.
“The thing we need most is unity, how do we achieve this unity you may ask, by all coming together and responsibly having a great time on St. Patrick’s Day,” Ice Trey said. “On a beloved holiday like St. Patrick’s Day we should do whatever we can to achieve unity, we can best achieve this unity by throwing an absolute banger on (March) 14.”
WMU Student Andrew Schultz called for the city to compromise with students when it came to House Crawl.
“With COVID-19 going on, student morale is pretty low,” Schultz said. “I would love to see Kalamazoo Public Safety come together and try to at least administer some sort of event with the students and the City of Kalamazoo.”
The city will discuss their plan on how to address nuisance parties March 22.