Since going into effect Aug. 23, the City of Williamsburg’s new noise ordinance has not caused a significant increase in the number of noise ordinance violations issued to students. Despite this, students who have been issued noise ordinance summonses have faced an increased penalty than in the past, and some fear the ordinance will be used as a tool to unfairly target students.
“The [Williamsburg Police Department] is not the body that renders judgment; the court does,” Student Assembly Chiefof Staff Charles Crimmins said. “So even if the number of summonses has not increased significantly, an important inquiry is what effect those summonses have had in court.”
The first violation of a noise ordinance is a class 2 misdemeanor, which could result in up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Any subsequent noise violation within 12 months results in a class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
The new ordinance has been viewed overwhelmingly unfavorably within the William and Mary student community.
“There seem to be two perceptions on campus: [The first is] that the noise ordinance can be used as an abusive tool by the residents, and [the second is] that police officers are patrolling Williamsburg with noise measuring meters in search of College [of William and Mary] students,” Crimmins said.
Crimmins recently met with the Chief of William and Mary Police Donald Challis earlier this week to discuss the perceived prejudice against students.
“[Chief Challis] assured me that [targeting students] was not happening,” Crimmins said. “He emphasized that many of the summonses that the WPD have issued have been to … repeat offenders.”
SA President Sarah Rojas ’10 also emphasized that the majority of students who have received noise
violations live in the same two houses.
“Most of the actual [summonses] have come from two houses, only two houses,” Rojas said. “I don’t know if these numbers are one-hundred percent correct — I know seven of the police’s visits have been to one house, which is a fair chunk of the overall complaints that have happened.”
She also added that the SA is taking action to make the ordinance more student-friendly, mainly by working
to have the city revise a portion of the “Specific Prohibitions” section of the ordinance. As it stands, Section 72-12, which details specific prohibitions, any “unabated” noise originating from a gathering of 10 or more people for over 30 minutes in any setting that is not completely enclosed in a building at any time of day is a noise violation. Rojas said she wants to change the ordinance to outlaw this type of gathering during the city’s quiet hours, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“That’s one of the things that the Student Assembly is really trying to push through,” Rojas said. “And we think that that’ll be a good change for students, because ultimately it’s hard to say, you know what, three in the morning, students can be as loud as they want with as many people as they want, but you know, there are hours where we aren’t students — it’s a college town — and being completely reasonable, at earlier hours in the night, there should be less of a restriction at later hours of the night.”
Mayor Zeidler has alluded that the Williamsburg City Council may be reviewing the noise ordinance to make similar changes.
The City Council is holding a work session Monday, Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. in the Stryker Building, and the noise ordinance is expected to be on the agenda.