D.C. City Council’s Judiciary Committee is currently reviewing a bill that would extend the jurisdiction of the Georgetown University Police Department to off-campus areas. At first, the bill may seem to have a small impact on students; however, if this bill were implemented, it would offer the potential for neighbors in the Georgetown community to affect off-campus students in significant and inconvenient ways.
Currently, the Metro Police Department patrols the off-campus areas around Georgetown, leaving the neighbors with minimal ability to affect how students are policed.
Yet, if the jurisdiction change takes effect, neighborhood leaders could use campus plan negotiations as a political tool to pressure the university into tightening GUPD policies off campus.
This concern is not hypothetical; students have already been affected by neighborhood influence on university policies, including those of GUPD. Last year, as a result of neighborhood concerns, all students in university-owned townhouses lost the right to have personal trash cans and now must bring their trash to centralized dumpsters up to a block away.
With the extension of GUPD’s jurisdiction, neighbors could continue their fight by asking GUPD to enforce a similar centralized trash system for students living off campus.
Additionally, the university has steadily increased its spending on the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program, a service coordinated by the Office of Neighborhood Life that responds to neighbors’ complaints about student conduct off campus, since signing the 2010 Campus Plan, resulting in more SNAP drivers, stricter off-campus noise policies and harsher citations. With the extension of GUPD’s jurisdiction, neighbors would have an additional tool to increase noise restrictions for off-campus students.
Furthermore, the expansion of GUPD’s jurisdiction would either require the university to increase its funding for the police department or to spread the same resources across a much broader area. Limited funding already restricts GUPD from expanding SafeRides and supporting other programs that would directly and positively impact students.
Funding should sometimes be used to make neighbors more comfortable in their own community, but not at the direct expense of programs that improve the personal security of students, like SafeRides. While we acknowledge that neighbors’ concerns about trash and noise are warranted, we oppose any bill that gives them additional power to dictate the off-campus student experience.
As we saw when GUSA successfully secured two additional student positions on the Georgetown Community Partnership, only direct student engagement in the political process will ultimately protect student interests.
Students and neighbors should work together to resolve these issues, without any intervention by the D.C. City Council to increase neighbors’ political tools or require our campus police resources to be spread even more thinly.
All students should sign the petition located here and write to the D.C. City Council to express discontent before the bill is considered in March.
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