This week I received correspondence from residents who experienced out of control parties, broken glass placed under car tires, public urination, and rude chants on the street corners. Things that have become all too frequent during major events. It was Homecoming. While unquestionably most students and visitors enjoyed the comradery of old friends, football, wine and food, some made the weekend, “unbearable”, “frightening”, “disgusting” for those trying to enjoy a beautiful fall weekend.
Next week the RCMP Advisory Board will discuss the Town’s approach to policing. Anticipating how I will chair that meeting has caused me to wonder: “Are we using the right tools to address the most prominent enforcement issues in our Town?”.
We have a well trained, professional, experienced police force. I have witnessed officers use patience to deescalate parties, be polite when giving tickets for open liquor, be respectful confronting someone acting in a regrettable manner. Officers are well trained in these skills – critical when they find themselves dealing with significant threats to life and safety – say someone planning to jump from a bridge.
However, if a dozen times a year people were trying to jump off a bridge, I feel we would not resort to the same response. Perhaps we would put in place things to make it harder to get onto the bridge. I think we would try to address the root causes that led people to regularly jump from a bridge. I am of course being facetious but I am also most certainly correct. So why do we keep just trying to manage the “bridge jumpers”, why aren’t we making it more difficult for these behaviours to continue?
I have come to the conclusion that it is not more policing of the type the Town currently employs – and which is approximately 15% of the Town’s annual budget – that is the answer. I don’t think it is even, or certainly entirely, a change in the manner that those officers handle these situations, although I am willing to have that conversation.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is …well just a waste of time, resources, and a recipe for disappointment. We need different tools including but not limited to:
- A Student Code of Conduct that includes consequences for disruptive off-campus as well as on-campus behaviour (whether or not students live on or off campus). Some post secondary schools have this, I have copies of these, I have some sense that the Town and Acadia may be looking at this at a staff level.
- A revision to our noise bylaw that includes the Landlord (as someone who is charged) as well as the tenant.
- Requiring, landlords to include in their leases lists of behaviours that interfere with the quality of life of others in the neighbourhood, and clear consequences to landlords for infractions.
- Support from the province to landlords to allow enforcement of these clauses.
The University has been reluctant to develop such a broad code of conduct in the event shining light on these issues affects their brand and future enrollment. Well, frankly these situations are affecting the Town of Wolfville brand. I increasingly hear that people choose not to move to Wolfville because of stories they hear about these behaviours. As a councillor that is a situation I want to stop before it becomes a “thing”.
A Word Cloud featuring words students used to describe why they chose Acadia featured terms like “community” “small town feel”, “involvement”, great atmosphere”, “small classes”, “strong academic quality”. I would have remembered if “a place to party hearty and destroy residential neighbourhoods” was anywhere on the list.
I appreciate our police force for their patience; our Town Staff for efforts to encourage compliance, and manage behaviour (e.g., during Homecoming 2017 the Town provided a free bus through the core to minimize disruptive and noisy crowds through residential streets); and the ASU for developing more on-campus events. Creating stronger rules and expectations of landlords and enhancing the noise bylaw is something the Town Council must consider. The Student Code of Conduct with consequences for off campus as well as on campus infractions – we must look to Acadia for that leadership.