By David Saunders
University Heights is in crisis. The University Heights Collaborative meeting on Sept. 30 underscored the feelings of residents. Some want students kicked out completely or living under university guardianship. Others feel the Buffalo police shouldn’t be responsible, but the University at Buffalo police should. As a student resident of University Heights, I want to suggest solutions to some problems related to student housing.
There is a problem with students partying, but it cannot be fixed by one silver bullet. One fact that should be acknowledged is that students will party. Partying cannot be completely ended, but should be controlled. To state the Buffalo Police Department shouldn’t be responsible is wrong. Students are residents of Buffalo and should be treated as such, along with the homeowners whose tax dollars pay for the police.
The Heights is not within the jurisdiction of UB police, but this doesn’t relieve the agency of responsibility. University Heights is not the only community to face these challenges.
Syracuse is one example. Syracuse University has a program called Orange Watch Patrol. University officers patrol off-campus neighborhoods. They cannot arrest people, but they alert city police to any crimes. Recently the university and the city formed a joint crime-prevention program. One highlight is joint patrol of off-campus neighborhoods by Syracuse police and the SU Department of Public Safety. UB should start a similar program with the Buffalo and Amherst police departments.
Joint patrols are not the only step to be taken. The landlords of University Heights should take action. They need to be active in the community. By attending block club meetings, concerns about the tenants can be raised. Another step landlords can take is writing a three-strike system or something similar into their leases. If a tenant receives a summons for noise violation or serving alcohol to a minor, the landlord would be notified by the police. All of the landlords should begin a database of these reports to hold students accountable.
Students, too, must help solve the problem. We live in this community and need to help fix it. As students, the best thing we can do is join our block club. My local block club spans the entire street, but only my block is active. We live, we socialize, we travel these streets but we don’t partake in community events. This must change.
We cannot and should not treat the Heights as a temporary place of residence. University Heights is our home and should be treated as such. While the partying will continue, we can still take proactive steps to improve the quality of life. Together, as one community of homeowners, landlords and students, we can fix the Heights.
David Saunders is a junior at the University at Buffalo and a member of the Merrimac Street Block Club.