Thursday, March 13, 2003

Oxford clamping down on parties

By Jon Gambrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OXFORD - A new Oxford city ordinance is aimed at taming student parties, particularly an increasingly rowdy annual block party.

The "nuisance party ordinance," which City Council passed last month, gives Oxford police authority to disperse crowds on private property. Before, officers could only disperse crowds on public property.

"This is a result of us grappling with large parties," said Police Chief Stephan Schwein.

"Last year, we had 200 parties fall into this (nuisance) category," the police chief said.

The new ordinance will affect the large student block party called Ghetto Fest, which celebrates the end of Miami University's spring semester.

Ghetto Fest has raised concerns about out-of-control behavior and violence.

The university also has increasingly discouraged the annual Green Beer Day, which fell this year on March 6. Roughly 4,000 people attended the party last year, patrolled by more than 20 police officers.

Even with additional police officers from several departments, there were 200 arrests and citations, and violence including the stabbing of a Miami University student. Miami student Nicholas Faulkner was stabbed in the back with a razor-like knife, according to Detective John Buchholz .

Four youths who came to Oxford after hearing about the party were charged with felonious assault, police said.

"It was the perfect example of people holding a party they couldn't control," Schwein said.

After last year, city officials got together with students and Miami University officials to develop the ordinance, basing it on a similar measure in Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State University.

Under the new ordinance, only the police chief or an on-duty supervisor can give the order to shut down a party.

Scott Blevins, chairman of off-campus student affairs at Miami, said there was a lot of misinformation among students about the matter.

"This is not a huge worry," Blevins said. "I trust the chief's discretion."

During the negotiation, Blevins said a requirement for parties of more than 50 people to be registered with city was eliminated.

He said he felt it would have been too restrictive.

However, Prue Dana, an Oxford City councilwoman, said there was a possibility that a registration requirement might be added to the ordinance.

"Ghetto Fest last year was huge and way out of control," Dana said. "It was absolutely frightening."

Dana, who was elected in November, said large parties such as Ghetto Fest affect the quality of life in Oxford.

She said that while students may not "toss bottles with great force through windows" and "indiscriminately urinate" in their own neighborhoods, they might do so away from home.

"I feel we have a proper balance right now," she said.

"People are anxious about it. It is a good first step," Dana said.

Organizers of this year's Ghetto Fest said they planned to talk with city officials next week.

A date for the event has not yet been picked.


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