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Orono apartment complex quiet after rowdy week, police say

Carter F. McCall | BDN
Carter F. McCall | BDN
Sgt. Scott Lajoie of the Orono Police Department, right, and Deputy Steve Marko of the Penobscot County Sheriff's department patrol the Grove apartment complex in Orono on Friday, May 3, 2013. Law enforcement has been given permission to patrol the private apartment complex, said Lajoie, after responding to several large parties there over the past week.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Like most University of Maine students, James Verlee has finals this week and doesn’t need to cram for them, he says.

The 20-year-old international affairs major said he’s maintained enough academic discipline, studying several hours a day during the semester, so that all he really needs to do is brush up.

“I try to get a good eight hours of sleep and not study my brains out,” the Bangor native said Saturday.

Lovely sunny skies, a six-officer police presence and the looming final exams week helped keep The Grove, a large off-campus college apartment complex on Park Street, peaceful last weekend, Orono police said.

Aside from some Frisbee throwing and some students catching rays, all was quiet at The Grove. Dispatchers at Penobscot County Regional Communications Center in Bangor said that no incidents had been reported to them as of Sunday night.

Police on patrol on Saturday afternoon also reported no significant disturbances.

“Everybody has been polite and cordial so far. I haven’t heard [complaints] from the people who live here or anything like that,” Orono police Sgt. Scott Lajoie said Saturday. “It’s your typical nice day out here.”

A crowd of roughly 300 people, many of them University of Maine students, gathered at The Grove on Wednesday night. Their partying and noise drew police from Orono, Bangor, Old Town, Veazie, the university, Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police and firefighters from the Orono Fire Department.

The warm weather and classes ending at the University of Maine have contributed to the recent parties at the complex, which is made up of a dozen buildings with 12 apartments in each, as well as another eight four-bedroom units called “townhomes.” The entire facility has a 620-tenant capacity.

Neighbors complained that the complex’s student population had turned their once-quiet neighborhood into a zoo. The neighbors said the parties and outdoor crowds last until 3 a.m.

Police were called to the complex three times for disturbances in the last week. Officers said that some beer bottles had been thrown at them.

The six police include a university officer and a county sheriff. They are walking The Grove in pairs “being visible, talking to people, and if they see anything that needs some enforcement action, they deal with it,” Lajoie said.

The patrols made Verlee and his friend, 19-year-old botany major Jordan Adams of Sanford, a bit uncomfortable, they said.

“It’s not necessary to have police walking around here 24-7 in a gated community,” Adams said, claiming that the parties that grew troublesome to some neighbors and to police were aberrations that make themselves felt far in excess of their number.

Most students at The Grove might party in their rooms, but those affairs typically don’t draw noise complaints or police, Adams said.

Orono police Sgt. Scott Scripture agreed, saying that for police, The Grove patrols were as much an exercise in diplomacy and restraint as law enforcement.

“It’s a balance between allowing the kids to have the good time that they are allowed to have and those [kids] that push their limits,” Scripture said. “Most of these students are very good kids.”

Police often find themselves encouraging students to introduce themselves to their more adult neighbors and families. Then police encourage both sides to work together so police don’t have to be called. Some students made friends of their neighbors by bringing them cookies, Scripture said.

Some adults received cooperation from students by explaining that they had small children who were getting awakened by the late-night noise, Scripture said.

Still, damage done by rowdy partiers was evident around the neatly-kept complex. Several emergency light fixtures had been torn from exterior walls. Small bits of broken beer-bottle glass was still evident, though it was equally plain that The Grove’s groundskeepers or others had cleaned up the messes quickly.

The Grove is paying the overtime costs of the six-man shifts, which ran during the week from 5 p.m. to least 3 a.m. — “longer, if need be,” Lajoie said. The Orono Police Department’s regular two-man shift is handling the rest of the town.

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