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Editorial: Peace may have returned to University Heights

That quiet has descended on the City of Buffalo’s University Heights is due in no small part to the concerted efforts of the Police Department and state attorney general.

The neighborhood has been plagued by crowds of drunken students partying into the wee hours in the morning, resulting in vandalism, noise, fights and public urination. Residents have had their sleep disturbed and property damaged for years, especially on the first weekend of the school year, unable to get the University at Buffalo or the city to pay enough attention.

If last weekend is any indication, the madness may finally have ended. There was a noticeable reduction in the number of raucous house parties and crowds of students roaming the streets.

The biggest change, as reporter Anne Neville wrote, occurred in May when State Attorney Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman announced a consent decree with University Heights landlord Jeremy Dunn, whose 51 properties on Winspear Avenue and Northrup Place racked up a staggering 500 calls to 911 in the previous three years.

The decree required Dunn to strictly monitor parties at his houses, and prohibited tenants from hosting parties for more than 40 people. They also had to stop serving alcohol and charging admission. Nor can they sit or stand on the slanting roofs of porches.

E District Police Chief Carmen Menza followed up that decree by paying visits to a dozen of the more notorious party houses and delivering, in person, this message to the tenants: “Don’t be the idiot that has the party. A hundred kids will walk out free, and you’ll walk out in handcuffs.”

The University at Buffalo has for years mostly turned a blind eye to the problem. This year, however, UB changed the schedule and pickup points of the shuttle buses aptly known as “the drunk bus.”

In previous years the buses were packed with students from the North Campus in Amherst heading to the South Campus and the parties in University Heights. In the early morning the buses would return the drunken students to their North Campus dorms. UB also added activities on the North Campus, which may have helped keep students away from the Heights.

The word didn’t get to every party house – police had to break up a few gatherings, but residents noticed the change for the better. And as cops continue to crack down on rowdiness, the message will eventually sink in: It’s time to turn the party lights out in University Heights.

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