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West Riverfront residents fed up with noisy University of Tampa student house parties

TAMPA

Big crowds. Loud music. Residential streets clogged with taxicabs, littered with red plastic cups and spattered with urine.

Homeowners in West Riverfront say students from the University of Tampa are flunking the good-neighbor test.

"This has got to stop," Ruth McNair, the longtime president of the West Riverfront Neighborhood Crime Watch Association, told the City Council on Thursday.

Residents complain that UT students have rented three houses in the middle-class neighborhood and have held parties that start around 10 p.m. and go until 2 or 3 a.m., leaving scattered beer bottles and sleepless children in their wake.

"They drink walking up and down the street, they throw their litter in the yards, the boys and the girls pull their pants down to urinate right on our front yards," said Dr. Lois Miles, a pediatrician who last month wrote Mayor Bob Buckhorn about the parties. "It's pretty despicable."

In an interview this week, residents said UT student parties had taken place in houses on W Grace Street, W Arch Street and W Nassau Street.

At the Grace Street address, a young man who gave his name only as Scott said that he was a University of Tampa junior and that he and several others had rented the house, but he did not live there. He told a Times reporter this week that the renters had the house for a little more than a year, but knew they had worn out their welcome with neighbors, so they were moving out.

Two young men at the house on Arch Street declined to comment.

But on Nassau Street, University of Tampa junior Duncan Abdelnour and his roommate Dan Baddeley, who is not a student, said they have tried to tone things down as the fall semester has gone on.

At the start of the school year, the two said their parties brought a line of taxis to their front door, which is directly across the street from a small church.

Since then, they've reduced the size of the parties, which take place about every three weeks, to about 150. They've also made an effort to clean up the cups afterward and to have security on hand to prevent underage drinking by checking IDs.

Abdelnour, a 20-year-old from New York who is majoring in entrepreneurship, and Baddeley said they like living in West Riverfront.

"It's a close-knit neighborhood where everyone knows each other," said Baddeley, 20, who is soon scheduled to go into the Marine Corps.

As a result, Abdelnour and Baddeley said they've tried to keep the noise to a minimum and to be respectful to neighbors.

In response, neighbors say the young men at the Nassau Street house do appear to be trying to make peace. They've given out their phone number and said neighbors should call if things get out of hand. They've told neighbors about their plans in advance. They've even delivered flowers to one neighbor.

Tampa police first heard of the parties in mid September, police spokesman Laura McElroy said. Officers are working with the crime watch coordinator, other residents and the university and are checking on the houses on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Police records show no disturbance calls to any of the houses since September.

Police have not made any arrests or issued any citations. They prefer to give warnings first in the hope that students will use better judgment, McElroy said.

Still, "if they continue to have these parties they will face criminal charges because residents there deserve to have a peaceful neighborhood and not be disrupted by college parties," she said. Potential charges could include disturbing the peace and indecent exposure, both misdemeanors.

In an interview Thursday, Buckhorn said police will respond to any future wild parties in West Riverfront the same way they would handle any disturbance in any neighborhood.

"If it's illegal and we are alerted to it, we will respond quickly and appropriately," he said.

A university administrator likewise says students could face discipline even for parties that take place off campus.

"We hold our students accountable to be good citizens, period," said Gina Firth, associate dean of wellness in the university's office of student affairs. "If we ever get a complaint from people in the community about our students, if we are able to identify them, we will deal with it."

Richard Danielson can be reached at danielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403.

West Riverfront residents fed up with noisy University of Tampa student house parties 11/01/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 2, 2012 12:03am]
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