Last weekend’s late-night scene took a sobering turn early Sunday morning when the tire of a Williamstown Police Department (WPD) cruiser was slashed while officers were shutting down a party at 18 Meadow St., an off-campus residence rented by seven students from the College.
The Campus Safety and Security dispatcher received a call from WPD at 12:15 a.m. requesting assistance to break up a party in response to a noise complaint. WPD sent two officers and two cars to the party of an estimated 200 guests. While WPD officers were in the house, a Security officer observed “a person … run to the front of one of the WPD cruisers, then … off towards the dirt lot,” according to dispatch logs.
“This most definitely crossed a line,” said Kyle Johnson, WPD Chief. “It seriously compromised the safety of everyone in town as it took an officer out of service until he was able to get another patrol car. This reduction in emergency responders potentially could have cost a life if his services were needed elsewhere and he was delayed in his response.” Johnson noted that he cannot recall any similar occurrences.
The perpetrator has yet to be identified. “We are holding the tenants responsible at this point as they were the ones that had the party,” said Johnson. “They could all be charged accordingly.” Residents of 18 Meadow said they had no involvement in the tire-slashing. “We [the house’s occupants] were all in the back of the house at the time,” one resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “Some people actually saw what happened but no one was able to identify who it was.”
While no other negative encounters were reported at the Meadow party, two arrests for open container and underage possession violations occurred the same night. The WPD also broke up a Friday night party at Susie Hopkins, a co-op, again in response to a noise complaint.
According to Johnson, noise complaints about College-associated parties occur “almost every weekend during good weather.” They are a point of ongoing dialogue between the WPD and the College. “With the noise abatement program, we meet with all students that will live off-campus or in co-ops and advise them ahead of time of what is expected and the consequences should these expectations not be met,” Johnson said. Security and Campus Life also take part in these annual information sessions.
“The thing that off-campus people need to know is that they’re incredibly vulnerable to legal action if anything happens to an underage drinker at a party,” Merrill said. While noise complaint strikes for on-campus events accrue to the College, both Merrill and Johnson stressed that student tenants are liable to criminal charges for off-campus incidents.
Jean Thorndike, director of Security, also pointed to the impact on community interactions. “We have concern for neighborhood relations when things like this [tire slashing] happen,” she said. “Information is provided to the students and they have to make choices. But we certainly understand that sometimes when word gets out about a party, things can get out of hand.”
A new round of discussions between the College and WPD last spring eventually led to the stipulation that amplified entertainment for all outdoor events on campus must be shut down by midnight. The College is considering alternatives, together with All-Campus Entertainment (ACE) and Neighborhood Governance Boards (NGBs).
“I don’t know if there’s more room for compromise, but we are talking about counter-proposals; although right now the message sent out [by Campus Life Director Doug Schiazza] still stands,” Merrill said. “What we’re doing with the NGBs and ACE is looking at where the major problems have occurred and where we have had more success, for example with parties in the Greylock Quad.”
Johnson is also optimistic about future resolutions. “The College is very good at problem solving,” Johnson said, citing home football games as positive proof. “I would like to never receive a noise complaint ever again. I want people to have a good time, but cannot allow it to be done at someone else’s expense.”