Scarp: Students need to do their apartment homework - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Scarp: Students need to do their apartment homework

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Mark J. Scarp is a contributing columnist for the Tribune. Reach him at mscarp1@cox.net.

Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2013 5:44 am

When your college-student son or daughter lives somewhere other than your own roof, you certainly have every reason to expect that where he or she lives is a safe and stable place.

To have that assurance may require some research, and Tempe police have provided some answers that unfortunately is not news to longtime East Valley residents.

This past week, Tribune partner ABC15 reported highlights of a recent Tempe police report that said an area east of Arizona State University’s Tempe campus is home to that city’s most complaints of loud parties, as well the location of one-third of its sexual assaults.

The annual number of loud party complaints in the area, many of whose apartment complexes have high numbers of tenants who are ASU students, is around 6,000 annually, according to ABC15’s account of the Tempe police’s recent “Loud Party and Neighborhood Disorder Report.” Many of these situations occur at complexes that rent to members of fraternities, the account reported.

Tempe has had an ordinance regulating loud parties for many years, and since 2012 it has included a “social host” provision that would punish those providing alcohol to underage party guests.

The ABC15 story quotes a Tempe parent of now-graduated ASU students who because of their bad experience living among loud partiers became involved in the Tempe Coalition, which battles underage drinking and drug abuse. It quoted Lynette Stonefeld as saying as a parent she wasn’t provided with “much information about where it’s safe to live or what the living conditions are.”

People like this are to be applauded, of course. They’re trying their best to help create an environment where young people can stay alive and well throughout their college years.

But too many parents — even those who are writing the checks to landlords of the apartments where their college-age children are living — are often under-informed about where their students are setting up their futons.

You don’t need an official report to talk about excessive partying, noise and substance abuse in this area east of campus.

I’m certainly not advocating for them, but the fact remains that loud parties have been going on there and elsewhere near campus for years. I graduated from ASU in 1980, and they were quite plentiful supply then. This was the era of speakers as tall as you were, wheeled outside an apartment and cranked up so that, party hosts obviously believed, everyone could rock ‘n’ roll all night… and miss class every day. (Full disclosure: I teach a course at ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus, and I care about students attending class.)

Yet every year, young people keep moving in, large numbers of whom I’m sure don’t drink if they’re under age, abuse drugs, or make a career out of partying. These apartments are blocks from campus and are easily reached on foot or bicycle. Many have been remodeled since they were built 50 years ago. The rents are affordable.

The city is taking a reasonable stance with its ordinance: Anyone who lives in Tempe should be able to quietly enjoy, to a reasonable degree, where he or she lives. And I’m sure police are doing a good job citing those at loud parties for noise or substance abuse, which in some cases have been a prelude to sexual assaults.

But the question is, will that 6,000-complaints-per-year figure change based on this alone? Or that it won’t decrease unless tenants choose to live in areas that don’t have such numbers? If landlords stopped renting blocks of apartments to ASU fraternities with bad behavior records, would that lessen the complaints?

It just might, as it would in any area with too much noise, alcohol and substance abuse, for this isn’t just a problem in this area, but others in the Valley that aren’t anywhere near colleges or have students as residents.

The marketplace is a powerful force. Then again, if the only people left in an area are the troublemakers, would that do anything to reduce the number of incidents?

In order to make competent decisions, consumers need to get access to credible information. If I were sending my son or daughter across the country, or across town, to live in a neighborhood, I’d find out what the police have to say about it. Reports like the one Tempe police just issued can be instructive, as well as information on crime and civil disturbances that are public records available to anyone.

Tempe is a great city with many great places to live. Police and concerned residents are working to eliminate the things that take away from that. Tenants need to make informed renting decisions, and clearly let landlords know they expect a safe and secure environment or find somewhere that will.

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