LEWISTON — Several residents described the situation around Bates College as entire neighborhoods under siege.

A few reported getting by on just a couple hours of sleep each night until, finally, the rain chased the partying students away.

Even as the new school year is just getting underway, there has already been a pair of meetings between Bates officials, police and others to address the problem.

The problem? Parties around the college campus reportedly causing an array of damage and rattling the nerves of the people who live there.

According to Lewiston Police Chief David St. Pierre, there has already been one civil citation issued to a student accused of disorderly behavior.

The chief said his department has received a number of complaints on White Street, Vale Street and surrounding areas as a result of student parties.

“We have been proactively monitoring issues concerning noise so as to address yearly complaints voiced by area residents that live in and amongst these off-campus residences where several Bates students reside,” St. Pierre said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the chief said, two meetings were held with Bates administrators and safety leaders along with city leaders and police.

“It was a mandatory meeting for ALL Bates students that live off campus,” St. Pierre said. “We will continue to keep the lines of communication open with Bates College as well as continuing to enforce various city ordinances and/or crimes that take place. Students were put on notice relating to legal issues they can face by the police as well as various disciplinary issues the College may address. The premise of these meetings is the hopes that Bates students will be respective of their neighbors.”

For those who live near the campus, all of this is nothing new. They have been trying to get the city to combat rowdy student behavior for years.

Maura Murphy, who lives near the campus, began leading the charge five years ago.

“I typed up a letter about the issue and put it in neighbors’ doors, just to learn what others thoughts and experiences were,” Murphy said, “and then the real party began. I was inundated with messages, calls and visits to my home. The ‘reclaim neighborhood peace and stability’ movement took on a life of its own. Our ward (representative) at the time took interest, having had observed the situation himself, and the mayor, city administrator and city council were also completely supportive, so we were all working in the same direction.”

In 2017, college officials met with city leaders and residents to discuss the matter of college parties. It was a similar situation to Wednesday’s meeting. Neighbors said that for a while, it worked. New ordinances were passed to help combat raucous student behavior and for a time, things quieted down.

“After we got the ordinances passed, things greatly improved for about two years then gradually fell apart again,” Murphy said. “The end of last semester was hell, and before school even started this year, it was even worse. Until last night — thanks to the rain, maybe? I was functioning on just a few hours of sleep, due to noise.”

Richard LaCouture, who lives on Davis Street, was part of that meeting in 2017. He said the more recent student behavior is as bad or even worse than it was back then.

LaCouture said White Street has been particularly bad for student parties. He described some nights when there were hundreds of drunken kids in the streets, and said some neighbors were terrorized for calling police.

In 2017, Lewiston residents complained of loud Bates students on White Street. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal 2017 file photo

The neighborhoods in question are largely working class, with homes occupied by families and by people who get up in the morning to go to work.

Murphy knows of one Lewiston High School teacher who has lived near the campus for more than 20 years and who suffers through loud student parties almost nightly.

“She has been going through pure hell,” Murphy said.

That neighbor, Laura Hearne, said she lives in a large apartment building occupied by small children, disabled people and one man who is undergoing cancer treatment.

Hearne described behavior among the Bates students as “ever-increasingly loud, disgusting, lewd, rude, entitled, disrespectful, just plain horrible behaviors” and said that students mock neighbors who threaten to call police.

She said that she and several of her neighbors have tried politely appealing to the students to cut back on their party behaviors.

“Actually, we residents don’t care about what they do, how they live, how much they drink and wreak havoc,” she said, “but they are totally taking advantage of this pandemic crisis by creating more, very serious tensions here. Not so long ago, when things got a bit out of hand, residents got results by asking or gently commanding, that they quiet down, and that worked back then. I am a public school educator and I need sleep. My husband has terminal cancer and needs his rest, sleep, too. We would move, but we shouldn’t have to.”

Hearne said students frequently urinate on homes in the neighborhood  and described “other deplorable incidents” that happen during the student parties. The ongoing nature of it, Hearne said, keeps the entire population of those neighborhoods on edge.

“We are now always on high alert, anticipating if this crap will happen tonight or tomorrow night or the next,” she said. “It’s a mess and needs to cease. Lewiston is our home, not theirs. We are nothing but the Dirty Lew’ to these young people.”

Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer said he is aware of the problems and said it is his hope that Bates officials will continue to cooperate with efforts to combat it.

“We had an initial meeting with Bates that went well,” Cayer said. “Bates suggested this meeting. At this time both Bates and the city are looking at current practices. We will be meeting again to discuss ideas around enforcement, student and citizen engagement etc.”

Bates College issue a statement on the matter Thursday night.

“Each year, Bates works closely and collaboratively with Lewiston public safety and code enforcement officials with respect to students living off-campus in rented private residences. Student Affairs staff and other college leaders meet frequently with representatives from the City of Lewiston, the Lewiston Police Department, Code Enforcement, and Lewiston Fire Department to consider strategies to address issues raised by neighbors,” the statement reads. “And, at the beginning of each academic year, the Senior Associate Dean of Students, Director of Campus Safety, Director of Title IX and Civil Rights Compliance, local neighbors, and Lewiston Police Department officers meet with all students living off-campus to discuss how to be positive and responsible neighbors. Students are also informed about potential repercussions if there are conduct violations. This year’s meeting occurred earlier this week, corresponding with the arrival of students.

“As always, the college remains committed to doing all we can to address issues raised by neighbors,” according to the statement. “In our recent meeting with city officials, we discussed those concerns and will reconvene with ideas for potential solutions in cooperation with the City of Lewiston and local neighbors.”

The Bates College monthly reports from the campus safety office outline some of the trouble reported around the school.

Over the recent weekend, there were several complaints, including a loud party reported in the area of 280 College Street and a disturbance in a parking lot on Wood Street, both on Saturday.

According to Murphy, part of the problem stems from the fact that most of the homes on streets around the campus are owned by out-of-town landlords who rent to students without being around to monitor their behavior.

“It used to be a lovely mixed working class neighborhood — lots of Bates faculty and staff, first responders, doctors and nurses, librarians and teachers, business owners, people who worked in mills/factories and many elderly, retired school teachers,” Murphy said. “That’s what it used to be. Now, while some of the people who have been here for many decades are still here, many former single-family homes have been sold to out-of-town landlords, who rent exclusively to students.

“We are an interesting no man’s land between Bates and the creep of drug culture from downtown,” Murphy said. “It is in both Bates and the city’s best interest to keep this area stable.”

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