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Efforts of police, UB prevent a repeat of last year’s University Heights mayhem

The verdict: Better.

Based largely on the efforts of police to keep the peace, but also because of university initiatives and improved student behavior, the excesses of Buffalo’s notorious house party weekend were kept under control. After last year’s eruptions, it was necessary.

The first weekend of the fall term last year, as in previous years, was Animal House comes to Buffalo, with University at Buffalo students descending on the University Heights neighborhood around the South Campus in search of fun, and inflicting misery on the residents. News staff reporter Anne Neville chronicled last year’s mayhem. And while students were the culprits, neither the university nor police distinguished themselves.

This year, they made amends, but another test will come tonight as students again head out for weekend house parties. Police need to be prepared to keep up the pressure and head off the student-borne mayhem, often fueled by alcohol.

It’s pretty clear that, despite the mainly commendable efforts of the university, the principal difference this year was the work of a large contingent of Buffalo police. They were determined to keep a lid on the pot, so to speak, and they did. The night was largely peaceful, with little of the widespread problems that characterized previous years: vandalism, open alcohol consumption, packed house parties, fights, public urination and excessive, long-lasting noise.

To the relief of many homeowners troubled by the terrors of last year’s invasion, police broke up house parties, issued tickets and protected the neighborhood. Some residents remained wary and some students were predictably unhappy but, in the end, police did the job they needed to do.

The university also pitched in, joining community groups that had been planning for the students’ return since March, according to University Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt. Among its contributions was July’s orientation for first-year students, who were required to attend programs outlining proper behavior on and off campus.

Students were given packets containing tips on being good neighbors, staying safe and, significantly, where to call with their own complaints. It was important that this effort focus not just on restraining rowdy behavior by students, but in serving their needs, as well.

It’s hard to imagine that training on good behavior is necessary for students of college age, but as recent years’ disruptions show, enough of them do to warrant the focus. And UB is hardly alone; this is a problem that campuses across the country are having to confront.

If UB fell short, it was in its failure to abide by its own decision to maintain 20-minute intervals in bus service from the North Campus to the South Campus, a short walk from University Heights. Instead the Stampede buses – a.k.a. the drunk bus – were disgorging students in the city as frequently as every three minutes.

The university’s efforts to educate its students almost certainly contributed to a more peaceful night. Nevertheless, it was the police presence that made the difference, especially on Winspear Avenue – ground zero for party-night trouble. Cops broke up six house parties, enforced open container laws and made arrests for alcohol sales to minors.

All in all, it was a heartening improvement over last year, when many neighborhood residents were driven to despair. But, as Mickey Vertino, president of the University Heights Collaborative, observed, it will take continued effort to ensure that students hear the message: “It’s not like it used to be.”

Police should be ready tonight to continue emphasizing that message.

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