Oxford City Council has proposed to start night time “party patrols” in an attempt to curb student raucousness. The move is “extremely likely” to be voted through in February and be in place by April.
The proposal would see two environmental health officers, alongside members of the police force, out on patrol during the early hours. The officers would have the power to confiscate music equipment and issue fines.
“Everyone wants to make a noise at some time but having a disturbed night’s sleep is no fun at all”, said Labour Councillor John Tanner, who is behind the proposal. “Oxford should remain a fun city. But everyone should recognise that especially during the week most people need a good night’s sleep.”
The councillor stressed that the measure was “not anti-student but anti-noise.”
At present, the council pays environmental health officers to be on call from their homes, which means they often deal with disturbances the following day. The new measures would not require the officers to be on patrol every night but they would be active during periods of high student activity, such as Freshers’ Week and the beginning and end of terms.
The patrols would also focus on regular trouble spots. “There is a significant problem of late night or early morning party noise in east Oxford but it is certainly not confined to that area”, the councillor stated.
OUSU Vice-President Daniel Stone commented: “Students need not be alarmed. This is an attempt to make the existing provisions more efficient and we will work with the council and students to ensure that patrols are conducted as fairly and transparently as possible.”
However, he added: “I think the council should avoid calling this service the ‘party patrol’ as many noise complaints are completely unrelated to parties and the student body in general – I feel that this title gives a negative slant to something that could be of great use to all members of the Oxford community.”
Labour, which has a majority on the council, is putting the proposals in their consultation budget, which Tanner said is “extremely likely” to be voted through in February. The changes will then officially come into effect alongside the new council budget in April, though there are plans to “experiment” with the policy before then.
It comes after the council received 4,289 complaints about excessive noise over the past three years.
The council intends to put aside £12,000 a year to fund the patrols, some of which will be provided by scaling down existing noise-reduction measures such as the out-of-hours service of the environmental health team.
Councillor Tanner noted that the council would continue to work alongside the University in dealing with the issues, but said that noise on the street and in homes was primarily a matter for the police and the council.
A University spokesperson said: “Anyone can be a noisy neighbour, whether or not they are a student. We would of course encourage all students to be considerate about their neighbours.”
Students were divided on the measure. Third year historian Becky Edwards was supportive: “I would be majorly annoyed if people were making loads of noise late into the night. I think it’s good that the council are doing something about it. It is basic neighbourly respect that you keep noise levels down on a week night.”
Sean Mendelson, another third year, disagreed: “Surely this is the sort of thing that is already being dealt with on a college level. Does the council really need to be spending £12,000 for someone to go around saying ‘shush’ to noisy students?”