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Editorial: How to throw a legal party

If you live in an off-campus house or just like to visit on weekend nights, you might have noticed that police are breaking up party after party, fining hosts and dispersing disappointed guests into the streets.  

The police say they are responding to noise complaints, which are up 7 percent this year, according to Lt. John Ryan, commander of Providence Police District 9. As a result of the increase in calls from neighbors, the police are now instituting a zero tolerance policy on violations and fining the residents of noisy homes. They'll go back to giving warnings to first offenders when things quiet down, Ryan said.

If you're planning to throw a party this weekend, here are some tips:

Keep the noise down.

Most complaints that the police receive are due to noise. This isn't just music coming from inside the party — many neighbors call the police because of noise outside homes. Warn partygoers not to talk loudly as they arrive or depart.

A city ordinance mandates that noise not exceed 50 decibels between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Noise violations carry a fine of $200 to $500, so it's in your best interest to avoid them. If you don't have a decibel meter, here's a way to know if your party is definitely too loud: Go 200 feet away from your property — about the distance between two telephone poles — and have a listen. If your party is audible, you need to turn it down.

Keep the numbers relatively low.

Smaller parties are less likely to attract attention, and larger parties are technically in violation of a Rhode Island law prohibiting overcrowded assemblies. The law states that each guest at a gathering on residential property must have an average of 15 square feet of space.

Of course, most complaints from neighbors are on the basis of noise and not overcrowding. Still, if the police come to your house to investigate a complaint and see clear signs of an overcrowding violation, they can enter and break up the party.

Be a nice neighbor.

We suggest you contact your nearest neighbors to let them know you plan to throw a party and give them a way to contact you if the noise becomes bothersome. This simple courtesy could help you avoid a hefty fine. Another option is to drop off a nice gift at your neighbors' houses before the party starts. Given the high cost of a fine, a token of appreciation for those living within earshot could be very economical.

But don't only be nice to your neighbors. If you do get busted, be nice to the cops as well — they're just doing their jobs — and be thankful you don't go to the University of Rhode Island.

At URI, students that have been fined for hosting parties must have an orange sticker placed on their homes to mark the site of an unruly gathering. If residents of the house remove or tamper with the sticker, they face a $100 fine. The URI Student Senate is currently challenging the constitutionality of the practice in a federal appeals court with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.

Fortunately, we haven't seen any stickers here yet. The Providence Police suddenly don't look so bad after all.

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to editorials (at)



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