STATE COLLEGE — Council on Monday began to look at a “nuisance gathering ordinance” intended to give police a new way to cite hosts with summary offenses if their guests break the law.
Police Chief Tom King told council the intent is not to replace laws but to add to what police have to work with now.
“We’re looking for additional ways for a local ordinance to supplement the crimes code,” he said. “When we can’t absolutely prove who furnished the alcohol … then tenants or property owners are responsible.”
The ordinance, based on versions already on the books at Michigan State’s hometown of East Lansing and Bloomsburg, home of Bloomsburg University, could establish a summary offense punishable by a $300 to $600 fine or jail time, according to an early draft circulated at Monday’s council meeting.
The ordinance draft also provides for recovery by the borough of police costs for the response, investigation, documentation and prosecution of the second and subsequent “unlawful nuisance gathering” within a 180-day period.
A nuisance gathering, according to the ordinance draft, is an event or gathering that results in any of a dozen illegal activities:
Noise ordinance violations; fights; open container violations; underage drinking; public drunkenness; public urination or defecation; unlawful sale of intoxicating beverages; unlawful littering; criminal mischief; possession or sale of controlled substances; lewdness or indecent exposure; and “other illegal conduct or condition which injures, or endangers the safety, health or welfare of the neighborhood.”
King told council that such ordinances were first developed on the West Coast about a decade ago and have since moved east. He said East Lansing “has had a lot of success with this” but Bloomsburg hasn’t used it much.
The police budget amounts to nearly half of the entire borough’s operating budget. Council will likely schedule a work session on the proposed ordinance in the fall.