Aug 262003
 
Authors: Todd Nelson

Students who live off campus should not be alarmed if Fort Collins Police Service officers pay them a visit this evening.

Turning off the lights and hiding in the basement will not be necessary.

The police officers, teamed with university representatives, CSU students and Fort Collins residents, will be going door to door in certain neighborhoods handing out information as part of the Community Welcome program between 6 and 9 p.m.

The Community Welcome program is a joint effort between the city of Fort Collins and CSU to help educate off-campus students about various codes and ordinances, as well as welcome them to the community, said Jeannie Ortega, director of CSU Off-Campus Student Services.

“The university and city want people to know that they care about student/resident relationships. This program is about solving problems proactively,” Ortega said.

The information packets the groups will be handing out include tips on how to throw a legal party as well as information on various city codes and ordinances, including lawn care and snow and trash removal.

“If students don’t know the law, then they don’t know they are breaking it,” said Robin MacDonald, code compliance inspector for the city.

MacDonald said that the most common code violation by students is not maintaining their lawns. Fort Collins city codes state that weeds and grass cannot be taller than six inches. The problem, MacDonald said, is that students do not look closely at their leases to see who is responsible for lawn maintenance and snow removal.

“Sometimes renters are shocked to find out that they have to go out and buy a lawn mower,” MacDonald said.

Another major problem for some neighborhoods is student noise, Ortega said. She recommends that students introduce themselves to their neighbors and exchange phone numbers in order to encourage communication.

“Building the relationship in the beginning helps in the end,” Ortega said. “If residents feel they can call and talk to their student neighbors they are much less likely to call the police.”

Police officers responding to a noise complaint have the discretion to determine if the noise is unreasonable. Officers can issue a fine of up to $200 per resident for the first offense, which can double for each subsequent offense, according to city code.

Ortega recounted the story of some students who bought their neighbors movie tickets for the night they were planning a party. Simple gestures like that can make all the difference, Ortega said.

If students find themselves at a party that gets out of hand, police advise leaving immediately. Colorado’s riot law, passed in 2002, states that the minimum penalty for those convicted for riotous behavior is a12-month automatic suspension from all state-supported universities.

If a party gets out of control and students need help shutting it down they should call 221-6540 for police help. Students who call police for help ending a party before neighbors call with noise complaints are unlikely to get a ticket, according to a city information brochure being passed out as part of the Community Welcome program.

“I haven’t noticed any problems in my neighborhood,” said Bruce Dennis, a junior marketing major who lives off campus.

A city ordinance passed last October prohibits parking vehicles on grass or other unimproved areas of someone’s property. Also, a car parked on a city street for more than 72 hours in the same place may be ticketed and towed at the owner’s expense.

Separate information will also be distributed to residence halls and Apartment Life areas such as University Village and Aggie Village.

“Students living in the residence halls are often times completely unaware of ordinances in the city. Yet they are very much part of neighborhood parties, Ortega said. “Our goal is to get information to them as well and increase their awareness about city ordinances.”

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