Sixty noise complaints have been answered by an off-campus security response program since Sept. 5, 2011.
The program was developed in 2005 for Kingston bylaw officers to monitor the Student Ghetto after the City received a number of complaints from students’ full-time neighbours.
Community members can contact the response program’s office, open 24-hours, to investigate noise complaints.
The program employs 10 staff members each shift, including eight uniformed staff — none are licensed police officers.
Murray Skeggs is the case management co-ordinator for Campus Security and helps manage the off-campus security response program.
“Essentially we approach the residence, we ask to speak to a resident, we advise them on city bylaws, [we] try to provide an educational moment and advise them there’s been a complaint,” Skeggs said.
The response program acts as a warning system for students.
“[Most] people are appreciative of the info we provide and that someone came by to talk to them before bylaw or the police came by and started giving them tickets,” he said.
The program’s authority is bound by campus borders, and the warnings act as an educational system since the staff can’t police students. If a student isn’t responsive to the warning, Skeggs said the program hands the case over to Kingston Police.
Steve Koopman, media relations officer for Kingston Police, said he couldn’t say how many complaints have been passed on from the off-campus team this year.
He added that most calls they receive from the team concern property crimes and noise complaints.
“Sometimes we may get some criminal complaints in cases of mischief which could be some property damage,” he said.
According to Koopman, Campus Security will sometimes call Kingston Police or bylaw officers ahead of answering a noise complaint.
“Maybe it’s something like a really large house party,” he said. “If we’re getting a call, it’s because things are getting out of hand and they want a stronger response.”
He said Campus Security and Kingston Police have always maintained a good relationship.
“They’re proactive,” Koopman said. “They provide us with info and they share with us [and] we still obviously adhere to privacy laws.
“It helps us to solve crime and keep it down.”
Koopman said when Kingston Police accompany Campus Security on a house call, it sends a stronger message to students. He added that Campus Security contacts the police once or twice a month.
“They don’t have that feeling of independence that it’s just themselves and the City of Kingston,” he said. “As a student, they’re representing a school and their institution.
“There might be repercussions from an academic standpoint.”
Kim Leonard, manager of licensing and enforcement for the City, is familiar with the process behind handling bylaw citations in the community.
Bylaw enforcement officers are dispatched by police. They work until 3 a.m. in order to remove some of the burden from Kingston police officers.
“Our staff has the time to explain to students the reasons why we’re there, the reasons for the bylaws,” Leonard said. “It’s a better PR [public relation] with students.
“It gives us time to talk to them, whereas police have more things that … demand their resources.”
Bylaw citations have three typical types of responses from the City — a warning, a provincial offence notice or a court summons.
It depends on the violator’s prior offenses, Leonard said, adding that the summons can be expensive and time consuming for a resident.
“They would probably appear in court two to three times [for a plea and a trial], so it’s a real inconvenience as well for them,” she said.
“If there are other avenues for us to educate, we’re certainly more open to that.”
The Municipal Affairs Commission (MAC) also regularly works with students to educate them on the bylaws that come with renting a house for the first time.
“We highlight the basics that Queen’s students need to be concerned about, some of which include: garbage, leaving [things] out on the yard [and] noise violations,” David Sinkinson, municipal affairs commissioner, said.
The MAC has a series of resource videos available online that will help students learn about bylaws and how they can potentially violate them.
According to Sinkinson, ArtSci ’11, the bylaw violations he sees the most in student houses concern yards and garbage.
“Usually, if it’s a noise violation it doesn’t really find its way to me because it could be handled … through the non-academic discipline system,” he said.
Another prevalent bylaw issue is structural damage to a house.
Mould in the ceiling can lead to a complicated situation for student tenants. According to Sinkinson, the mould can be caused by tenant neglect, or a previously existing issue with the house.
“If it wasn’t your fault, you could call the City of Kingston’s bylaw office and they would come inspect your house,” he said.
The City can then communicate with a tenant’s landlord to get the mould removed properly.
“[Bylaws are] not really against students,” Sinkinson said. “Most of the time, they actually support students because they [concern] pretty serious issues.”
Sinkinson helps run the Student Property and Dwelling Education team (SPADE), a committee of students within MAC that are trained by the City of Kingston. They inspect properties to look for bylaw violations. The group, formerly known as the Student Property Assessment Team (SPAT), has been in existence for over 15 years.
“It’s something that the City also really appreciates because it assists their sometimes too-busy bylaw office,” he said.
The committee inspects for mould, vermin, heat issues or other structural concerns at the request of students.
With students on the lookout for next year’s leases, Sinkinson said it’s important to take time to make sure there’s no risk for a bylaw violation on the property.
“When you’re going to the house as well, keep your eye tuned to things you want [or things] that would look unusual,” he said.
“It’s frustrating if we rush to find a house because first of all, there are tons of properties and second, when we rush to find a house it basically enable landlords to not bother improving some of their properties that are a little more questionable.
“Don’t settle because you don’t have to.”
According to Sinkinson, City bylaws can be daunting for student tenants.
Sometimes students don’t have the resources to avoid bylaw citations. For example, keeping an orderly yard is difficult for students who don’t own a lawnmower to cut the grass.
“That’s really where landlords need to support their tenants as well,” Sinkinson said.
“That could be problematic … if you have an absentee landlord or a landlord that’s too busy.”
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