APD Chief Scott Livingstone addresses Rental Bylaw Implementation Group
The Rental Permit Bylaw has become perhaps the most successful local government health safety initiative of the past generation, protecting tenants from (the few) shoddy landlords while motivating them to keep tenants behavior in check or risk losing their permit.
Now, only one year after start up, the certification program boasts 100% compliance of all 1,261 rental properties in Amherst, a college town with a high percentage of rentals and the lowest median age in the state.
Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone paid a visit this afternoon to the Rental Bylaw Implementation Group to discuss ways to improve on the already resounding success of the program, specifically by allowing easier access to police records of that neighborhood bane, noise/nuisance issues.
The Chief told the committee that noise/nuisance complaints are not the highest priority for police response, so on a busy weekend when the weather is nice the call response can be delayed by an hour or more. By the time police arrive the party or noise is sometimes over.
Currently the system tracks noise/nuisance complaints if a formal ticket or warning is issued to a property. But committee member Maurianne Adams wishes to see the system capture complaints made against a residence whereby no formal action was taken by officers, perhaps due to a delayed response.
Chief Livingstone confirmed the rowdy behavior that has disrupted neighborhoods for too many years, has improved significantly: In 2012 APD had 1,064 calls for service relating to bad behavior and only two years later, in 2014, those calls decreased over 40% to 617.
The Chief attributed this dramatic reduction to outreach work done by his officers -- following up noise complaints the next morning for instance -- extensive publicity shining a light on bad behavior, neighbors taking it on themselves to try to resolve issues, and "peer group" initiatives undertaken by UMass and the Student Government Association (Walk This Way and Team Positive for instance).
One problem with increasing transparency of police calls via the town website is APD's computer system does not get along well with the town system used by Building Commissioner Rob Morra.
But Chief Livingstone liked the idea of sharing this information and planned to take it up with his senior staff and Information Technology person later this month.