University House enlists police help to deal with vandalism and disturbances

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In this University House apartment, which has received a citation related to partying, alcohol bottles that have accumulated during the course of the semester line the top of a refrigerator. MAGDALENA GUILLEN / Daily Titan
In this University House apartment, which has received a citation related to partying, alcohol bottles that have accumulated during the course of the semester line the top of a refrigerator.

The Fullerton Police Department has made more than 80 visits to University House Fullerton since it opened in June. The apartment complex, in its first semester of operation, has been beset by citations for minors with alcohol and 40 reports of disturbing the peace.

Sgt. Jeff Stuart of the Fullerton Police Department said the police have gone to UH Fullerton a total of 81 times between June 15 and Dec. 8.

The visits resulted in 20 police reports, 14 of which were alcohol citations for minors in possession of alcohol.

There have also been two vandalism reports. In the first case of vandalism, someone knocked over a large expensive pottery planter and broke it. In the second incident, several of the windows on one of the business locations downstairs were shattered.

UH Fullerton is located on Commonwealth Avenue and Chapman Avenue, one block south of Cal State Fullerton. It consists of 350 apartment units and first opened during the summer of this year.

The apartments include balconies, and the complex has amenities such as a 24-hour media lounge, a swimming pool and cardio and weight training centers.

In September, all residents received an email from the UH Fullerton staff that said there had been “an extreme amount of vandalism, littering, and inappropriate conduct that (had) occurred within (the) community.”

Since the residential housing is not on state property or affiliated with CSUF, the Fullerton Police Department has had to deal with these issues. CSUF University Police does not have jurisdiction over UH Fullerton. UH Fullerton has since hired a private security firm.

Residents have noticed the disturbances that have occurred within the community since moving into the apartments in August. Brian Tom, 21, an entertainment and tourism management major, is one of them.

“In the first two months or so of living in University House, I did experience a lot of people running around loudly in the late hours of the night and randomly banging on the door to my apartment,” Tom said.

He said after people party at night, it is common to find dried vomit and empty alcohol bottles in various places in the morning.

Aprille Hwang, 19, said she sees missing exit signs in every other hallway.

“We get them replaced, and within a couple of days, they go missing again,” the business administration student said.

She also spotted beer cans and glass bottles in the stairwells and black stains in the halls.

“As for inappropriate conduct, it is super annoying when people rev their engines at 3 a.m. It’s not cool when you set off all the car alarms,” Hwang said.

Terence Yee, a 19-year-old business major, said there has been an instance where holes were punched into the drywall. It was so rowdy during September and October that there was an increase in law enforcement patrolling the grounds.

“This occurred because apparently there were about a hundred college kids down at the swimming pool, throwing a giant party,” Yee said.

UH Fullerton is particularly “very loud” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. In November, an argument occurred outside Yee’s door that resulted in a fight between about 30 people, he said.

“The reality is that we are college kids and like to have fun … but I do not support the rowdiness and environment that the UH has created, being ‘party central,’” Yee said.

In order to minimize the problems at UH Fullerton, the housing staff reminded residents in an email that groups are not allowed to gather in courtyard areas between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The staff enlisted the help of California Safety Agency courtesy patrol officers and Fullerton police officers to monitor the grounds during the evening.

The officers were instructed to issue police citations to any individuals who “exhibit behavior that warrants such measures.” The UH Fullerton staff also warned residents that it will be issuing penalties, including fines. In some cases, they said they would evict problematic residents.

The email also told residents not to prop doors or hold open gates for any strangers. Yee said he frequently sees students who were not residents waiting at the gate entrance for someone to let them in.

Stuart said the Fullerton Police Department had begun to see a problem over time. The police department met with the management company and explained its concerns, and the management was “very accomodating.”

“I think they were just overwhelmed, they didn’t expect those problems to begin with,” Stuart said.

Since UH Fullerton is not actually set up as dormitory housing, it does not have any resident assistants to help maintain peace.

“As far as party calls and things that we have dealt with in there, we’ve had individuals throwing things off the balconies,” Stuart said.

Most of the party calls involved loud music complaints and people being loud in the apartments. In some instances, residents were throwing a party and refused to open the door when the police came by to investigate. That was something the police department had to work with the management company.

The police’s first priority is to get the cooperation of the person to turn the music down and quiet the party. If that does not work, then they look at alternatives.

Normally, when the Fullerton police receives a call to investigate, their typical response would be to go and contact the tenants of the apartment. The police issue a warning and a “first response,” which means the police write down the tenants’ information.

The police then inform the tenants that they could potentially be cited or arrested for disturbing the peace if the police have to come out a second time. However, this only happens if there is an individual willing to sign a complaint. Doing so would lead to a private person’s arrest.

There have been no second response calls nor any citations issued specifically for the disturbance of peace at UH Fullerton.

“In a process where it’s a disturbance of the peace, the police officer’s peace can’t be disturbed, it has to be somebody who is a citizen or a civilian whose peace is disturbed,” Stuart said.

No one has signed for a private person’s arrest, which means the police could not take any actions. If a person had signed a private person’s arrest, then he or she would have to go to court at a later point and explain to the court how his or her peace was disturbed.

In a situation where minors are drinking, the Fullerton police can issue a citation or something along the lines to resolve the issue without it getting to a point where a citizen may have to go and testify in court.

Stuart said there have been no drug citations at UH Fullerton, which is not uncommon anymore.

“Typically, when it comes to party calls, it would be marijuana type of issues. And now with the medical marijuana prescriptions or the recommendations, it’s virtually impossible to do anything on those anymore,” Stuart said.

After the UH Fullerton management began working with the police department, there has been a decrease in vandalism and inappropriate conduct. The staff has also hired their own security.

The management was accommodating what needed to be done to try to make UH Fullerton a safe, enjoyable place for all tenants. Although things have quieted down a bit since the beginning of the semester, Stuart said his department will have to wait again and see if UH Fullerton starts having problems again as it gets into the summer of next year.

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