As Cory Peterson’s SNAP car rolled along the streets of West Georgetown at a steady 10 miles per hour — orange lights flashing and windows rolled down — students on foot recognized the vehicle’s familiar presence.

“SNAP is everywhere tonight,” a young woman said to her companions.

One of the university’s two Student Neighborhood Assistance Program cars started its shift at 11:25 p.m. on Saturday. In the car, Peterson, area coordinator for Village A and upper-classmen areas, and a Department of Public Safety security officer at the wheel got back to the night’s patrol, accompanied by Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Jeanne Lord.

SNAP, a service provided by the university to address security and noise issues in off-campus residences, combs the area surrounding campus every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.. The crew approaches “problem” houses with high noise levels or visible security threats and responds to complaint calls made by neighbors to the SNAP hotline.

Peterson observed the crowds of students along his route and explained that when deciding when to approach a house or group of students, he takes stock of suspicious individuals, open doors and open windows, as well as a high volume of sound.

He said that safety is of the utmost importance when on duty, and emphasized looking for open windows and doors.

Lord also said that safety is the primary goal of SNAP.

“The first goal of SNAP is to enhance safety in the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s a resource for students as well as the neighborhood.”

Peterson said that while SNAP does respond to complaints, more often a SNAP member looks to prevent a call from neighbors by pinpointing loud homes and asking residents to cut back on noise levels.

“I would say we try to be more proactive than reactive, and it’s really to the students’ benefit,” Peterson said.

If he is able to speak to students and warn them about their rowdiness, he can help them avoid interaction with Metro Police Department and the potential arrest that would result from violating the recently amended noise law.

At 11:52 p.m., music and loud conversations were emanating from an illuminated townhouse. Peterson and the DPS officer walked up to the doorway and had a brief conversation with one of the residents of the home. Peterson informed the young woman that she and her friends could be heard from a block away, recommending that they quiet down. Then Peterson wrote up a report on the incident.

SNAP team members write up a report for every house they visit, but punitive measures are not necessarily the next step for students. The Office of Off-Campus Student Life calls in students to determine whether disciplinary measures will result; SNAP members have no say in the matter.

“I actually don’t have anything to do with the punitive side of things,” Peterson said. “All we do is document it if there is something to document.”

As Peterson and the security officer left the doorway, the female resident they spoke with thanked them and told them to have a good night. The exchange took about two minutes, and the party was allowed to continue in a subdued manner.

Peterson said students often express gratitude after SNAP team members speak to them. “I find that most students are happy we’re talking to them and not MPD,” he said.

At 12:30 a.m. — now switched to a different car with Lord, a SNAP team member and LGBTQ program coordinator Matthew LeBlanc and another security officer — they patrolled the streets of Burleith. The neighborhood has less foot traffic, which made it easier to hear noise emanating from gatherings on the open back porches and carrying down the narrow streets.

After a 12:40 a.m. call, LeBlanc said that the students were cooperative, as is typical of his calls.

LeBlanc said the residents he spoke to were cooperative and helped to communicate the situation to the other students.

“There’s very few times that we have to explain what to do. They know why we’re there. By the time I reached the door people were putting on coats and hats, getting ready to go,” he said.

Back in the car at 1:05 a.m., the SNAP phone rang.

LeBlanc answered, “Georgetown University SNAP, this is Matt, how may I help you?” He listened to a neighbor reporting a loud party near 37th and O Streets, and the SNAP car headed to the location. LeBlanc again approached the back of a home and asked the guests of the gathering to leave.

When LeBlanc returned to the car, he explained that while each case of a potential noise violation is judged individually, generally at around 11 or 11:30 p.m. SNAP team members stop giving warnings to students at gatherings and begin asking that the party be disbanded.

As the SNAP car pulled away, a young man walking with a group of companions sang a short song with the single lyric “SNAPs” accompanied by a few finger snaps. The two SNAP cars provoked a range of responses from students throughout the night; a few waved or said hello, while others made jokes or derogatory remarks and a few just ignored the vehicle. LeBlanc said he is used to a mixed response from students walking by.

“There are times when students will say very mean things to us as we drive by. It doesn’t bother me,” LeBlanc said. “And then sometimes I’ll see a student on the street and make eye contact, he’ll nod, and I’ll nod, and they recognize I helped them out the night before. And there’s a mutual respect there.”

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