Peekskill officials are examining ways to ensure police officials can effectively penalize residents who host parties and large events that get out of hand.
Police Chief Eric Johansen proposed that the city enact a nuisance party law that can be directed at people who host large gatherings during Monday’s Common Council work session.
Current laws allow police officers to enforce offenses such as open container violations, loitering and gambling when observed, but most do not target the host of the party, according to Johansen.
“Anybody who has a party has the responsibility of making sure that it’s an orderly party and that the quality of life of the surrounding neighborhood is not affected by it,” Johansen said.
Johansen gave one of example of a party where cars parked illegally around a block.
“You could issue the ticket to the car, but the host is not responsible,” Johansen said. “But if this is an every week occurrence….eventually, the host should be held responsible.”
The legislation would also give police the authority to shut down parties. Police can only fine hosts at this point, Johansen said.
Johansen said there have been complaints in different parts of the city, including Constant Avenue, about residents hosting parties that have gotten out of control.
Johansen submitted three similar laws in Syracuse; Cortland, Cortland County; and Oxford, Ohio; that were written with the purpose of penalizing people who host rowdy parties.
“In researching this, I found the majority of cities and municipalities that enacted this kind of legislation were college towns or places that had a large amount of vacation rental properties,” Johansen said.
Hosts who hold frequent parties that are deemed disruptive would face fines and possible jail time under the legislation, Johansen said.
Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton said she isn’t comfortable with the proposed legislation and she can see the law being abused.
“If I want to have a picnic or a barbecue in the back of my house three or four times a week and I invite my whole family, which is fairly large….If I’m making too much noise, come and knock on my door,” Claxton said.
Claxton also said she would like to see police enforce the city’s other laws, like the noise ordinance, first before moving forward with the proposal.
Mayor Mary Foster said she also had concerns about approving a law that some municipalities use to control college parties and using it too control parties in Peekskill. Foster said she'd rather approve a law that addresses behaviors that aren't currently addressed in the city's nuisance laws.
"The difference between ticketing the people who exhibit those behaviors versus ticketing the homeowner...I don't know if I'm comfortable with how you're going to differentiate that," Foster said.
Councilwoman Marybeth McGowan said the law needed find a balance between a party that's a little too loud and a nuisance party. McGowan said in many cases the situation can be resolved by a neighbor knocking on the door asking the host to turn the noise down.
"There’s another issue of it not being resolved the first time, than two hours later you’re going back for another issue…there does come a point when a party can become a real nuisance and I don’t know if the law balances that out well,” McGowan said.
Councilman Darren Rigger said he envisioned a law where hosts wouldn’t be charged for throwing a nuisance party until they recorded a certain number of violations.
No decisions were made during Monday's work session.