Lewiston police officer Charlie Weaver talks to residents of Lewiston who live in the Bates College neighborhood Thursday night at a meeting at the college to discuss police policies and to listen to concerns they have about off-campus parties and vandalism by Bates students.

LEWISTON — Cathy Harkins is tired of plucking red plastic cups out from under her lilac tree day after day.

Richard LaCouture has grown weary of the all-night parties, the students hanging around his yard and the cars blocking his driveway.

The loud parties, the parking issues, the public urination: Nearly four dozen people packed a room at Pettengill Hall on Thursday night to voice their unhappiness about what one woman deemed “students behaving heinously” at and around Bates College.

“They’re out of control at night,” said Harkins, whose Davis Street property is often strewn with litter the morning after yet another off-campus party.

“It’s maddening,” said LaCouture, also of Davis Street. “This used to be such a nice neighborhood.”

Some spoke of the giddiness of youth and made justifications for the student behavior. Others described those same students as arrogant, mouthy and seemingly incapable of decent human behavior.

The complaints aired at the meeting Thursday night were many. In response to them, Lewiston Police Chief Brian O’Malley voiced a stern but simple message to incoming Bates students.

He’d prefer that his department not arrest a single student, the chief said. But with new policies going into effect, O’Malley said, police are prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to combat out-of-control behavior at Bates.

“I would love for these kids to not disturb the neighborhood,” O’Malley said. “I would prefer not to make any arrests at all. I don’t think that’s very realistic.”

Mayor Robert Macdonald talked even tougher on the matter. Bates students found to be breaking laws should be arrested just like anyone else, the mayor said, no matter who their parents happened to be. Those arrests should be publicized and people shouldn’t feel sorry for the kids, Macdonald said, particularly those who are made to suffer for obnoxious student shenanigans.

“They don’t care about you,” the mayor thundered. “Why should you care about them?”

O’Malley’s commitment to bringing order to the Bates area was evident before the meeting even started. With him Thursday night were half a dozen other officers, most of them from the department’s Community Resource Team.

These are the officers who will be following up on complaints made about student behavior, O’Malley told the group. And the officers will become involved more often than in previous years, he said, because of a change in the way disorderly conduct calls are handled.

In the past, residents were advised to call Bates Security whenever they had complaints about campus parties and rowdy behavior. Now, police are inviting those residents to call them directly. Police will give out required warnings for disorderly behavior on the first visit. If they have to go back, arrests will be made accordingly.

“If we can avoid that,” the chief said, “I’d be all for it.”

To that end, the chief said he intends to meet with students and student groups before the coming school year to let them know that police are serious about maintaining order at the college.

“We’ll let them know that we’re going to be ramping up enforcement,” O’Malley said. “It’s going to be a learning process for the kids.”

According to police Sgt. Randy St. Laurent, the department will also track the off-campus buildings that prove to be most problematic for bad student behavior. When five complaints are compiled, St. Laurent said, “then we can start doing a lot more to address the problem.”

Part of that strategy will involve contacting the tenants of the problematic apartment and notifying the building owner. Raucous parties and uproarious behavior will be addressed, the chief said, not only as it happens, but in ensuing days. The idea, he said, is to demonstrate to students that there are consequences to their actions, even in the bright light of day long after the party has ended.

“They might not realize it that night,” O’Malley said, cocking a thumb at his officers, “but they’re going to realize it when these guys come knocking on their doors Monday morning.”

Police officer Joe Philippon is one of the officers tasked with trying to convince the students to curb wild behavior before it begins to affect the rest of the neighborhood.

“Just because it’s Thirsty Thursday for you,” Philippon said, “doesn’t mean it’s not a school night, or a work night, for the people who live next door.”

Mike Heon hears that. A Davis Street resident, Heon said the problem with student behavior goes beyond just a few loud parties. As someone who generally gets up at 4 a.m. to go to work, Heon said, entire lives are disrupted by the rowdiness of the students.

“We go through this year after year,” he said. “We accept a certain amount of this kind of behavior, but when you work for a living and you have to go through this day after day?”

Among those who attended the meeting Thursday were City Administrator Ed Barrett, Director of Planning and Code Enforcement Gil Arsenault, a few local landlords and representatives from Bates College Security and Campus Safety.

From the police and city side, it was a show of sincerity. But will it be enough to combat what has been described as chronic disorder in the neighborhoods around the campus?

LaCouture was cautiously optimistic.

“It’s a good start,” he said. “But there have been so many discussions like this over the years.”

Harkins, beleaguered by vandalism and by the red cups that haunt her lilac tree, was more hopeful that peace could be restored to her neighborhood.

“This is a positive step,” Harkins said at the end of Thursday night’s meeting. “It’s been just wonderful and I think it will all work out.”

Lewiston police officer Charlie Weaver, left, talks to residents of Lewiston who live in the Bates College neighborhood Thursday night at a meeting at the college to discuss police policies and to listen to concerns they have about off-campus parties and vandalism by Bates students.

Robert Strong, bottom right, a resident of Mountain Avenue in Lewiston, is surrounded by city officials and police as he and other residents of neighborhoods surrounding Bates College listen to Lewiston Police Chief Brian O’Malley discuss policies and procedures the city has in place for them to deal with a problem with inappropriate behavior by the college students living in their neighborhoods.

Residents of White Street in Lewiston, Steve Kottler, left, and Maura Murphy, joined other residents and landlords of neighborhoods surrounding Bates College in Lewiston on Thursday night to listen to police officials outline procedures they have in place to combat obnoxious behavior by Bates students in the early-morning hours.

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