Big Rapids DPS cracks down on code violators

Sunbathing Ferris State students lounging on yard couches can expect to receive a tan and a lightening of their pocket books.

As the weather stays temperate, instances of lawn lounging may continue for the foreseeable future.

A violation of city ordinance can include furniture on lawns, noise complaints and excessive litter on the premises, which can earn offenders a range of fines from $50 to $500 or even imprisonment for 90 days for atypical cases.

“We had one [couch] on our porch. We sat out there until [the police] put a notice on our door,” Ferris automotive engineering sophomore Ben Kloss said.

The notice they received did not include any specific amount the fine would be if the situation was not rectified.

Tickets are not always issued as a majority of students have been compliant to officers’ request, and a verbal warning may be sufficient.

“We would like to give verbal warnings, but we are keeping track of all these. If you have a prior contact regarding noise, we’re past the verbal warning stage,” Big Rapids Police Officer Jim Eddinger said.

As a resident of Big Rapids and a 15-year veteran of the police force, Eddinger has seen the volume of nuisance parties and problem students dissipate considerably.

“I think students have gotten a lot better over the past decade. You can tell that Ferris has high standards with an active judicial service,” Eddinger said.

According to city reports, 1,729 enforcement actions were taken from code violations, although no distinction between residents and the off-campus student population were noted.

“It typically is addressed quickly; an officer telling a student to take care of it is usually enough,” said Eddinger.

Of specific problem areas, Eddinger noted that fraternity houses are a common visiting place for officers, but most are compliant.

“I think they are reasonable. When people get out of hand they correct it,” Ferris senior automotive engineering Mike Sydow said.

He noted that the implementation of the Padlock Law has been an active deterrent. This local ordinance reserves the right to temporarily revoke a place of residence if three or more citations are issued in a calendar year. The city can choose to exercise this ordinance if it sees fit.

“Tioga Park can be a little interesting; you will see some furniture out there. We don’t want this on fire and it looks unsightly,” Eddinger said.

Calling a landlord has also been implemented to curb a continuance of these problems.

Without a qualitative measure to determine whether a party is violating the local ordinance, common sense has been the best tool.

“We’re not splitting atoms here. It’s 4:30 in the morning and you have guys screaming at the top of their lungs wearing adult diapers. That’s a problem,” Eddinger said.

After a six-year hiatus, the city of Big Rapids has reinstituted a bike program with four officers patrolling the city limits on two wheels.

Officers hope to implement this program to make early contact with party goers and increase their effectiveness in the community.

“The whole system is set up for accountability,” Eddinger said. “For years we would go to the same house over and over again and there would be no consequences. After years of this, the city has adopted new ordinances.”