It took a joint city-college effort and pressure from residents, but relations between students and the Plattsburgh community have definitely improved.
For people who live near the SUNY Plattsburgh campus, there is more that needs to be done to ensure peaceful coexistence. Perfection will never exist in a college community, of course, as some immature or inebriated students will always cause problems.
But most of the crime connected with young people — who are not all college students, mind you — has declined in the past two years. The bad behavior associated with that age group usually involves disorderly conduct, vandalism, noise, public urination, open container and assaults.
We had a sense that those problems may have lessened somewhat after several years of concerted effort by city officials, City Police, campus officers, Greek organizations and resident activists.
Numbers provided by City Police Chief Desmond Racicot for this Viewpoint provided confirmation. Police arrested 109 people for disorderly conduct in 2011 and 74 so far this year; 30 for public urination in 2011 and 12 for 2013; more than 100 for open container in 2011 and 40 this year; and 120 for noise violations in 2011 and 88 as 2013 comes to a close.
Racicot says that, looking back to when he started at the City Police Department in 1989, the change for the better has been “remarkable.”
He remembers that officers back then might make 10 or 15 open-container arrests each on a weekend night. And college parties would sometimes be filling cups from 20, 30, even 50 kegs of beer at one house.
Racicot, who has been chief for almost 11 years, attributes the change to the city-college-community partnership, concerted education efforts, more police officers, noise and open-container laws with more oomph and letters sent by the Mayor’s Office to parents of students who get arrested.
The police chief has beefed up night patrols and told officers to be proactive. They order young people to pick up their garbage after parties, to turn music down and to get off rooftops.
A good share of credit also has to go to a one-woman whirlwind named Nancy Monette, a city homeowner who has tenaciously pressed the issue. For years now, she has represented the concerns of residents, advocating for those who are upset about the problems but not motivated to speak up, addressing student forums on campus and organizing off-campus get-togethers where young people get to know the year-round residents who are their neighbors.
We would also suggest that SUNY Plattsburgh’s raising of admissions standards over the years has contributed to the improved atmosphere. Students who are more academically inclined have motivation not to risk their standing by getting into trouble with the law.
The problem has by no means been eliminated, but a cooperative attack has created a situation everyone can live with.